Social media has revolutionized the way that we interact with each other – and led to many people oversharing information that could be potentially embarrassing, costly or even dangerous if it falls into the wrong hands. What you post online could cause you to become the victim of a crime, or endanger your friends and family, so think twice before posting any of the following types of information.
Your Full Birthdate
Everyone loves receiving birthday wishes from friends on their special day. But posting your entire birthday, including the year, makes you more vulnerable to identity theft. The same goes for anniversaries and your children’s birthdays; these are common passwords. If you must list your birthday, only post the month and day.
Do you really want everyone who sees your Facebook profile to know exactly where you live? Since most people have at least a few people on their friends list that they aren’t exactly close with, sharing your home address is a risky proposition. Limit the info to your hometown, or even just your state, to keep your location private.
Your Vacation Plans
“Headed to Maui for a week!” We’ve all seen it (or even done it): people posting information and photos about their vacations before and during their trips. While social media is designed for us to share what we’re up to, letting the world know that we aren’t going to be home isn’t the smartest move. Thieves target homes that they are sure are empty, so don’t open yourself up to a robbery.
Confessionals About Bad Behavior
You did something stupid, or even illegal. Resist the impulse to share the details on social media – and tell your friends to keep it to themselves as well. Not only does law enforcement use social media to investigate criminal activity, the IRS has been known to check out taxpayer profiles to corroborate information on returns, and employers use the sites to evaluate potential (or even existing) employees. Bragging that you cheated on your taxes or stole a street sign online can be a one-way ticket to trouble.
Photos or Information About Risky Behavior
Whether it’s overindulging in adult beverages or spending every weekend skydiving and bungee jumping, constantly posting updates and photos about your less-than-safe activities can cost you money. Some insurance companies are looking to social media for evidence that their customers are consistently behaving in ways that endanger their health and property – and raising rates accordingly.
Your friend sends you a questionnaire asking for all kinds of details about you, like your birthplace or your mother’s maiden name. But when you post that information, you are filling in gaps for identity thieves – how many times have you used your mother’s maiden name as a security question? Letting the world know that you like blue cheese is fine, but if you’re asked to share a more personal fact, don’t.
Links to Unfamiliar Sites
A funny meme or e-card. The hysterical sketch from the last “Saturday Night Live.” A great deal on shoes. Before you share any kind of link on social media, make sure it is what it claims to be. Sharing spam or malware is one way to lose friends, never mind jeopardize your own information and computer.
Photos of Your Home
You just completed a huge home improvement project and want to show off. But before you upload the before and after pictures, consider whether you’re revealing anything else. Criminals look for photos that show your valuables, or for clues as to the location and layout of your home. If you must share pictures, make sure to remove valuables from the shot, remove the geotagging on the picture and take the photo from an angle that makes it difficult to determine where the room is located.
Your Kids’Names and Birthdays
There’s a lot of talk about kids posting inappropriate things on social media, but sometimes it’s their parents who are the culprits. Avoid posting details that would make it easier for a criminal to build rapport with your kid, such as his or her birthday or favorite toy, and do not tag photos of them with their full names.
Your Phone Number
When you include your phone number in your profile, everyone you are friends with can access it – even people you really don’t want to have your digits. If your profile, or any of your friends’ profiles, are compromised, a hacker could sell your phone number and leave you vulnerable to any number of scams and other problems.
Of course, keeping your profile set to private and only allowing your friends to see what you post can go a long way toward protecting your information. However there’s always a risk, so take steps to keep your personal information private and your data and computer safe from ruthless criminals.
About the Author: Last year, blogger Elisabeth Collentro’s Facebook profile was hacked and she ended up with a virus that destroyed her hard drive. She decided to use data recovery files from www.recovermyfiles.comand was thrilled when her files were restored.