Facebook can expose some very personal information.
By Kathy Kristof
The whole social networking phenomenon has millions of Americans sharing their photos, favorite songs and details about their class reunions on
Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and dozens of similar sites. But there are a handful of personal details that you should never say if you don’t want criminals — cyber or otherwise
— to rob you blind, according to Beth Givens, executive director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.
The folks at Insure.com also say that ill-advised Facebook postings increasingly can get your insurance cancelled or cause you to pay dramatically more for everything
from auto to life insurance coverage. By now almost everybody knows that those drunken party photos could cost you a job, too.
You can certainly enjoy networking and sharing photos, but you should know that sharing some information puts you at risk. What should you never say on Facebook, Twitter
or any other social networking site?
- Your birth date and place. Sure, you can say what day you were born, but if you provide the year and where you were born too, you’ve just given
identity thieves a key to stealing your financial life, said Givens.
Vacation plans. There may be a better way to say “Rob me, please” than posting something along the lines of: “Count-down to Maui! Two days
and Ritz Carlton, here we come!” on Twitter. But it’s hard to think of one.
- A study done by Carnegie Mellon showed that a date and place of birth could be used to predict most — and sometimes all — of the numbers in your
Social Security number, she said.
Home address. Do I have to elaborate? A study recently released by the Ponemon Institute found that users of Social Media sites were at greater risk of
physical and identity theft because of the information they were sharing. Some 40% listed their home address on the sites; 65% didn’t even attempt to block out strangers with privacy
- Post the photos on Facebook when you return, if you like. But don’t invite criminals in by telling them specifically when you’ll be gone.
Confessionals. You may hate your job; lie on your taxes; or be a recreational user of illicit drugs, but this is no place to confess. Employers commonly
peruse social networking sites to determine who to hire — and, sometimes, who to fire. Need proof?
- And 60% said they weren’t confident that their “friends” were really just people they know.
Password clues. If you’ve got online accounts, you’ve probably answered a dozen different security questions, telling your bank or brokerage firm
your Mom’s maiden name; the church you were married in; or the name of your favourite song.
- In just the past few weeks, an emergency dispatcher was fired in Wisconsin for revealing drug use; a waitress got canned for complaining about customers and the
Pittsburgh Pirate’s mascot was dumped for bashing the team on Facebook.
- One study done last year estimated that 8% of companies fired someone for “misuse” of social media.
Risky behaviors. You take your classic Camaro out for street racing, soar above the hills in a hang glider, or smoke like a chimney? Insurers are
increasingly turning to the web to figure out whether their applicants and customers are putting their lives or property at risk, according to Insure.com.
- Got that same stuff on the information page of your Facebook profile? You’re giving crooks an easy way to guess your passwords.
- So far, there’s no efficient way to collect the data, so cancellations and rate hikes are rare. But the technology is fast
evolving, according to a paper written by Celent, a financial services research and consulting firm.