6 Things You Should Never Reveal on Facebook
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. 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.
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. 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.
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 settings. And 60% said they weren't confident that their "friends" were really just people they know.
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? 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.
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 favorite song. Got that same stuff on the information page of your Facebook profile? You're giving crooks an easy way to guess your passwords.
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. 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.
7 Things to Stop Doing Now on Facebook
Using a Weak Password
Avoid simple names or words you can find in a dictionary, even with numbers tacked on the end. Instead, mix upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. A password should have at least eight characters. One good technique is to insert numbers or symbols in the middle of a word, such as this variant on the word "houses": hO27usEs!
Leaving Your Full Birth Date in Your Profile
It's an ideal target for identity thieves, who could use it to obtain more information about you and potentially gain access to your bank or credit card account. If you've already entered a birth date, go to your profile page and click on the Info tab, then on Edit Information. Under the Basic Information section, choose to show only the month and day or no birthday at all.
Overlooking Useful Privacy Controls
For almost everything in your Facebook profile, you can limit access to only your friends, friends of friends, or yourself. Restrict access to photos, birth date, religious views, and family information, among other things. You can give only certain people or groups access to items such as photos, or block particular people from seeing them. Consider leaving out contact info, such as phone number and address, since you probably don't want anyone to have access to that information anyway.
Posting Your Child's Name in a Caption
Don't use a child's name in photo tags or captions. If someone else does, delete it by clicking on Remove Tag. If your child isn't on Facebook and someone includes his or her name in a caption, ask that person to remove the name.
Mentioning That You'll Be Away From Home
That's like putting a "no one's home" sign on your door. Wait until you get home to tell everyone how awesome your vacation was and be vague about the date of any trip.
Letting Search Engines Find You
To help prevent strangers from accessing your page, go to the Search section of Facebook's privacy controls and select Only Friends for Facebook search results. Be sure the box for public search results isn't checked.
Permitting Youngsters to Use Facebook Unsupervised
Facebook limits its members to ages 13 and over, but children younger than that do use it. If you have a young child or teenager on Facebook, the best way to provide oversight is to become one of their online friends. Use your e-mail address as the contact for their account so that you receive their notifications and monitor their activities. "What they think is nothing can actually be pretty serious," says Charles Pavelites, a supervisory special agent at the Internet Crime Complaint Center . For example, a child who posts the comment "Mom will be home soon, I need to do the dishes" every day at the same time is revealing too much about the parents' regular comings and goings.