Help Wanted: Applying for the Job of Identity Theft Assistant

John Merchant, CPA, CFE

Do you participate in social networking through one of the social networking Internet sites, such as Facebook?  If you do, you should exercise caution.  These sites often provide the opportunity for you to share personal information about yourself.  Such information might include your name, address and telephone number as well as more private information such as your date of birth, the schools you have attended, your place of employment and the names of your parents.  In other words, you can provide much of the information that an identity thief needs to steal your identity.  Once identity thieves have this information, all they need to do is find a few more pieces of the puzzle, such as a bank account number or your social security number, and they are on their way.

If you have included personal information on your social media site, you have probably marked it “Private” and restricted access to it.  At least you think you have.  In truth, an expert hacker can enter your site and have that information in minutes.  Think of it this way – your close friends and family already know your birthday, where you went to school and where you work.  So why would you need to include that information on your site?

Be careful about the information that you unintentionally share with others.  Each year, millions of dollars are lost by innocent victims of identity theft.  Don’t make the thief’s job easier.

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