Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, MeetUp are all an online world with a population setting of their own where literally humans reside. Social networking is the concept of the 21st century that is used literally by everyone and not just the teen agers anymore! Although the social networking world has provided fast communication, online business services, picture sharing, entertainment and much more it can be said without a doubt that these sites have also passed through the corporate firewall which is now an integrated part of many mobile phone apps and serves as a quick tool for job searches.
No matter what these social networking sites have brought to us in positive terms, they have definitely created a never resolving conflict with some basic principles of using online services which mainly involves identity theft. There is a long and detailed trail of personal data that is left behind by all those who choose to use social networks making it easier to commit identity theft.
So let’s come to the most important question that is what can we do to protect our identity? Should we just hide in the large pool of people all of which are potential identity theft victims just hoping the hackers will choose someone else over you or should we let go of social networks altogether? To answer both of the questions; “No” and definitely a “No”. Instead what we could do is follow few tips and keep ourselves protected instead.
1. Beware of the forbidden sharing-The TMI!
The basic principle that runs the Social Networking involves sharing your personal information online to the rest of the world however there are certain things that you should never even think about sharing online. It is of utmost importance that you realize the sensitivity of posting Too Much Information (TMI) because this might just be that one thing which can safeguard you from identity theft and in turn might just protect you physically as well.
So let’s see what is on this never sharing list…first and foremost never post your social security number even if it is the last 4 digits, your date of birth, address of your residence, phone numbers and of course never share your ins and passwords or credit card information because there are tons of opportunistic hackers waiting for such data.
Also avoid sharing your state of birth because this can very well be used to access your social security number or other data that could personally identify you. Facebook lets you choose the people who can view your date of birth or the place you live but not every social networking site offers the same kind of protection. So the best thing to do is to avoid sharing any such piece of information!
2. Customize your privacy options
In view of the increasing concerns regarding identity theft, Social networks have begun to give complete control to the users on how they choose to share their private information with the world sites. Never assume that you have to stick with the default privacy settings given by the site. You must browse through the privacy settings to know what possible options you are given with to select who, when and where can view which part of your personal data that you have shared.
Facebook is that social network which offers the widest range of options in this regard such as friends, friends of friends, who can view your basic information, certain pictures or other posts or you can simply choose “everyone” so that your data is hidden from none. There are some social networking sites that even allow you to limit what others can see when they search for you in the given search bar.
3. Tone down on details of your work history on LinkedIn
If you are thinking that putting up your entire resume with all the educational background details and work history might just earn you more job offers than “abort mission.” If you do that, there are thousands of identity stealers who might as well steal that information to register for let’s say a loan or guess your password security answer or smarter ones may even work their way in to your corporation’s network.
So it is prudent to tone down your work history information on LinkedIn and/or on other social networking sites. If you feel that certain extra details might help you find better jobs than try quoting those details during the job lookout search and some later for when you are called for an interview, providing just enough details to attract employers call you up for an interview.
LinkedIn also gives certain options to limit your personal information that you choose to share. You can cut back on the access by your contacts networks on things you don’t want them to see. This is a famous habit adopted by professional and employers who do not wish their valuable information to be seen by others who might entice their customers, clients or prospects. So see this is even important in business competitors!
4. Never blindly trust, always verify!
There are multiple reasons as to why someone would choose to impersonate another person or fake someone’s identity online. It could be a harmless prank such as faking celebrity account for fun or it could be by a big time hacker trying to access your credit card details. No matter what the reason is impersonating an identity always has some legal repercussions even if it is for legit reasons such as someone creating fake social ID to hide their original identity. However in most cases it is the very first step adopted by those who want to defame someone they hate or steal someone’s identity for any personal gains.
The imperative question that needs to be answered here is that how can one verify to whom a particular page or account belongs to before you send them a follow or friend request or share your information! You can begin by searching for anything that stands out from the ordinary or is too odd to be true. If the shared information of their page or account doesn’t look legit or seems like someone you know that better route is to take another route! Instead, save yourself the hassle and send your friend an email or simply call them up to find out what their real account is rather bring it into the knowledge of your friends that someone is impersonating them!
5. Put controls over your commenting habit
Many online blogs have started to use legit commenting softwares such as the IntenseDebate offered by the manufacturers of WordPress blogging software, the anonymous comments on the blogs are acceptable and commenting was fun until some people with an exaggerated sense of humor started commenting with fake names and this happens more than just in a blue moon.