Identity thieves can wreak havoc on your personal and financial life and it only takes a few pieces of information for them to do so. In a world that is connected by media and technology, identity thieves are using these as tools to get at your information. Your social media sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and personal websites can be a treasure trove for these thieves.
There are four key types of information they will look for on your media sites and, if they get any of the information, it can make it much easier for them to steal your identity. Knowing what they are after is the first step in protecting yourself. How do identity thieves use your information? Read on to find out what they need from you and how they will use it against you.
1. Personal Information
One of the key bits of information a thief needs to steal your identity is your personal info, and social media sites are a great place for them to find a lot of this fairly easily. It is surprising how many people post all of their personal information on their website bio pages. This is not a good idea, as it creates a one stop spot for thieves to gather these important bits of information. You should change your privacy settings so nothing gets posted without your permission. Set your website and profile to private so only your friends can see the information you share, and even then, share only what you absolutely need to share. Be very discriminating about accepting friend requests when you do not know the individual personally. Some thieves will create an account and send out friend requests in order to look at the information available on accounts of people who accept the request. Avoid listing information such as your address, phone number, birth date and year, mother’s maiden name, and any other sensitive information.
2. Schedules and Routines
Another great tip for how to avoid identity theft is to never share your travel plans over any of your social media sites. In many instances you risk not just your identity being stolen, but other possessions as well. When you let people on media sites know when you are leaving for trips and for how long, it is as if you are laying out a welcome mat for thieves. Identity thieves can use this time to break in, rifle through files, break into safes, and take any valuable they can. Never be specific about exactly where you live, when you are gone, and what your normal schedule is.
Even things, such as posting your school or work schedule or mentioning how late you will be at work each day for the week, might invite thieves to break in. If this sort of information must be shared with people, do so in private posts or chats or emails, not where everyone who views your page can see it.
Many people know it is important to monitor your credit score to help guard against identity theft, but it is also equally important to monitor and guard your passwords. Make sure you do not save your password when using a public computer, a shared computer, or a laptop. Many sites automatically check this option when you sign in, so you need to be extra vigilant about ensuring your password is never saved. The danger with saving the log in information is if you do not log out properly, or even in some cases, if you have logged out completely, if someone else visits that site they can log back in and view your information. Do not use the same password on multiple accounts because, if a hacker breaks one, he will likely try to use that same password on any other site or account he or she knows you have. Also, be sure you never write down or share your log in information, passwords, account numbers, PINS or other log in information with anyone.
4. Employers, Favorite Stores, and Restaurants
It is a little harder for thieves to get valuable information with these, but it is still an area to be cautious with. If you mention where you work, what department, and who your boss is, there are two basic ways a thief can try to use this information. They can go to your place of work and rifle through the dumpster to try and find any important papers you may have thrown out while at work. Or they can send you calls and emails pretending to be someone from your job asking you to update your personal or financial information for their records. offshore centre If you talk a lot about your favorite stores, restaurants, or shopping trips, the thief can also send you calls and emails to try and get your information by offering you store credit, sales, discounts, and other promotions from these locations. So be careful about how much information you share on those social media sites.
The following are some tips for avoiding identity theft from the FBI:
- Never throw away financial papers and records in a readable form.
- Do a credit check on a regular basis to monitor for unauthorized activity.
- Never give out information over the telephone unless you initiated the call.
- Reconcile bank accounts and notify them of discrepancies immediately.
- Keep a telephone number of who to call for the loss or theft of your wallet, credit cards, etc.
- Report unauthorized activity on any account or report as soon as you detect them.
- Review a copy of your credit report at least once each year.
- If someone is getting credit lines or loans in the names of others, report it to law enforcement authorities.
Amy Johnson is an active blogger who is fond of sharing interesting finance related articles to encourage people to manage and protect their finances.