05 Aug Protecting Your Profile

A common argument against social media is the privacy concern, not even fear of identity theft, but the “bad feeling” people get from so much of their personal information being available to advertisers and the general public. This is a valid concern, and online privacy is perhaps more of an issue than even the people making this argument realize. According to Frank Abagnale, the famous conman-turned-FBI-Security-Specialist who inspired the movie Catch Me If You Can, if a potential identity thief has your birth date and where you were born, then they’re “98% [of the way] to stealing your identity.”

On the other hand, for most social media professionals, our argument in defense of almost every social media platform has become “They don’t force you to post everything about yourself!” which is also a true and valid argument. Ultimately, every user has complete control of the information they post online before it’s posted. Once you choose to post that information, you risk losing that control.

The solution here is to be preemptive and keep your most important personal information to yourself. Here is a basic list of personal information you should not pin, tweet, post, or share with the social media world.

  • Complete Birth Date, and Location of Birth

As Frank Abagnale mentioned, this is almost everything an identity theft needs to steal your identity, especially when combined with your name and current place of residence. Identity thieves have also figured out how to steal this information from your security questions on social media sites, so taking the option to create your own question, and using non-vital information (eg: the name of your first dog) is ideal.

  • Home Address and phone number

This may seem like one of the more obvious “don’ts” thanks to a fear of predators showing up at your door. But it goes deeper than that, especially if you have other seemingly innocuous information listed on your profile that, combined with address or phone number, could open you up to identity theft or fraud.

“Passport” style profile pictures.

A professional headshot or any other photo that an identity thief could pull off of social media and use to impersonate you should not be posted. For profile pictures, use group shots, or if you do use a single shot, use a photo that is not a close up (eg: a photo of you standing in front of a landmark on vacation), and that won’t be easily cropped to look like a headshot.

  • Travel Plans

Check-ins and adding a location to photos and other updates are becoming increasingly popular. However, this only makes it easier for identity thieves to turn into traditional thieves, especially if your home address is posted on your profile. Never post vacation dates on your profile, and if you do check in somewhere, don’t tag other family members, so that it’s not confirmed that your home is empty.

There are also a few key steps you can take to monitor and protect your personal online presence

  • Create Accounts

Even if you don’t want to tweet, use instagram or engage in other social media platforms, creating accounts under your name with a secure password will help keep identity thieves from impersonating you on other accounts.

  • Never Click “Remember Me”

It may seem tempting, especially if you’re prone to forgetting passwords, but unless you are on a home desktop computer that is password protected, do not click that box.

  • Set Up a Google Alert

Google Alerts are not just for celebrities who want to know how many times a day their names get mentioned in the news. A Google Alert is a free service that comes with your Google account, set up an alert for your name, your spouse’s name, children’s names, and any other family members you need to keep track of.  This way, if an identity theft does use your identity online, you know about it and are able to report it.

  • Know Where To Go

If you do find suspicious activity on a profile, or get a Google alert for activity you don’t recognize, time is of the essence, go to www.ic3.gov to report the fraud and for instructions on your next step.

Social Media is meant to be both useful and entertaining, but it also comes with risks. Knowing what to do and what not to do, educating your family, and being vigilant minimizes those risks, allowing you to enjoy the platforms.

Do you have any more tips on online identity protection? Share in the Comments below!

Sibet B Freides