Five Ways You Endanger Your Friends Online

Friday, September 16, 2011

Kelly Colgan


By Betty Chan-Bauza, Identity Theft 911

For many of us who thought we had left cringe-worthy moments behind in middle school, social media has revived that old pit-of-the-stomach “What did I just do?” feeling.

That’s because, while we would never intentionally expose a friend to embarrassment, identity fraud, or worse, it’s shockingly easy to commit these five common online blunders:image

  • Have a great vacation! You wouldn’t hang a sign on your front door announcing that you’re leaving town for a week. But are you equally cautious about writing on your friend’s Facebook wall? Your well wishes for his trip to Europe could look like a welcome mat to a “friend” who’d love to get his hands on the vacationer’s flat screen TV. Birthday greetings aren’t much better. In the wrong hands, date of birth can be a building block to identity theft. Even a pet’s name can be fodder to an identity thief, since they’re often used as passwords.
  • Your password: Me12345. Not only do you risk your own security with an easy-to-crack password, you put your friends at risk. Hackers, pretending to be you, can send friends urgent pleas for cash—“Help! Mugged at the train station in New York. Need money to get home.” It’s a social media twist on an old email scam.
  • Tagged photos. It’s not just those girls-night-out photos that can get people in trouble. Innocent photos of a child’s birthday party could bring grief if they’re seen by an estranged parent or relative obsessed with re-establishing contact. Adjust your site settings so tagged photos are visible to that person only. And don’t post any photo unfit for the church choir.
  • Geotagged photos. Many GPS-enabled smartphones automatically add geolocation (latitude and longitude) metadata to photos. That means anyone can find out EXACTLY where that photo you posted on Twitter was taken. Post a photo of your friend standing in front of her prized new painting, and it’s like letting a thief case her home from his couch. For tips on disabling the geotagging feature on your phone, visit I Can Stalk U.
  • Your friends list is visible to others. While it might fun to show off your who’s-who list of Facebook friends, some likely want to remain anonymous. Visit Facebook’s Profile Privacy page to turn off your friends’ visibility to others.

And, if you suspect your identity has been compromised through social media or any other means, call your insurer or bank.

imageBetty Chan-Bauza, Vice President of Product Management, Identity Theft 911 Betty has spent two decades with startup and Fortune 500 companies in the electronic payments, telecommunications and fraud and security industries. In the past, she has worked for Accenture, Iridium and Visa, and she was most recently a vice president at LifeLock, an identity theft services company that experienced exponential growth during her tenure.

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