By Tiffany Monhollon
When it comes to your personal brand online, we’ve come a long way when it comes to transparency on the web. This is a great thing for making the web a more open and real place to form connections, network, and share ideas. But it can provide challenges and opportunities for unsavory things to be done with your identity – or worse. The basic vibe when it comes to open personal branding on the web is that there is safety in numbers, which is true in many ways. But it’s also easy for identity thieves (or even stalkers) to pick the suckers out of a crowd, especially one of this size.
So if you’ve been hit by the 25 things meme on Facebook, the question you have isn’t really to share or not to share – that’s up to you. But for the sake of your safety, you should be asking yourself about what you are posting – even in places where you think your content is safe. Sure, on Facebook, you are sharing content with people you probably know - or think you know, at least. But that doesn’t mean it’s always safe. Or even private. Even one of your friends whose own Facebook profile is easy to hack can open a “private” profile up to attack. Just one loose or unknown connection who has ulterior motives who can access your content can simply copy and paste your vital information anywhere they please - to keep, or to share with others you don’t know. Others who might have some plans of their own for your identity.
So before you post, check out these 25 random things you probably shouldn’t publish online.
The basic information an identity thief needs to steal from you varies depending on the schemes they plan to carry out, but it might surprise you just how little information they actually need. Here are some vital pieces of information they might look for.
1. Physical addresses
2. Personal phone numbers
3. Birth dates
4. Birth cities
5. Social security numbers
6. Account or credit card numbers
7. User names
9. Children’s full names
Most people are savvy enough to not post basic identity-related information online intentionally (though that doesn’t always mean the information is safe). But, there are other types of information that could give an identity thief who has just one piece of basic personal information about you access to your financial accounts, your blog, social network profiles, etc.
This is more unique personal information about your relationships, history, preferences, and life in general. Exactly the type of information you’ve probably given as the answer to some security questions when creating password measures for online profiles. The kind of information people use in passwords - words, dates, and ideas that are personally memorable.
10. Your anniversary date
11. The name of your teacher in any grade.
12. Your children’s birthdays.
13. The make and model of your first car.
14. Your first pet’s name.
15. Your high school mascot.
16. Your favorite word.
17. Your best friend’s name.
18. The maiden names of relatives.
19. Your favorite color.
20. Your favorite movie.
21. The color of your first car.
22. The name of your elementary school.
23. Your favorite food.
24. The name of your first kiss.
25. Your favorite place to eat.
This short list can’t capture them all. But what it should do is capture your attention.
Because these are the kinds of details people are sharing on MySpace and Facebook and Twitter every day.
So, stop for a second and ask yourself if you are also relying on the same information to keep your online identities secure.
When you’re publishing information about yourself online, you probably mean well. But it’s like my mom always said when I started driving – “It’s not you I’m worried about; it’s all the other people [or in this case, bots or hackers or scammers] out there.”
If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, act immediately.
If you have already published these types of facts about yourself online and have also used the same facts in passwords or security questions, it’s not too late to take preventative measures. Create new passwords and security answers immediately as a first precaution. There are lots of great password creation tips you can use, so make it a priority. You can also pay for identity theft protection from a company like LifeLock to help prevent problems if any of your basics have been compromised.
But, the truth is, no system can fully protect you if you are sharing too much information online.
You never know what people will do with the information that’s connected to your personal identity. So make sure you aren’t ever publishing any information about yourself that could give yourself - or your security online - away.
Because social media is real life, too.
How do you decide what personal information to post online and what to keep under wraps? Have you posted 25 Things or another meme and had weird things happen with your info? What are your thoughts about social media and personal security? Come chat with me in the comments section.
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By Tiffany Monhollon | February 6, 2009