By Police Officer Larry Jacobs
It’s easy to become comfortable posting on social networking sites without thinking of the risks posed by putting personal information online where everyone can see it.
Yet every day, Facebook and other such sites post that kind of information, according to Adam Levin, chairman of Identity Theft 911.
“An awful lot of people think when they get online and communicate with their friends that they are invincible,” Levin said.
A seemingly benign post or piece of information could make you the target of identity thieves and traditional crooks.
To protect yourself and family members who are posting online, please remember a few tips on what not to post.
Date of birth: Almost 60 percent of people who participate in social networking sites post their dates of birth, according to a survey by Identity Theft 911.
It’s understandable. Most people like to be wished a happy birthday. However, people should resist the urge to post a complete date of birth – including the year – so that people don’t know their birthdays.
Having a date of birth can be valuable to identity thieves. People might think that only their friends see what they post. But if a would-be thief searches for your name or is looking for easy targets, the date of birth that’s listed on your profile can be just what they’re looking for.
A child’s date of birth: Same goes here. When you post “Happy birthday to my sweet Susie, who turns five today” you’re giving valuable information away about your child. When it comes to children, be safe and resist the urge to post any information about them.
Travel plans: Posting itineraries is ill advised. You’ve seen Facebook posts that say “We’re going to the beach next week. Can’t wait.” Around 18 percent of Facebook users post hints of their travel itinerary, according to Identity Theft Survey 911. Unwittingly, when these times are posted online, you’re extending an invitation for people to burglarize your home.
It’s happened before. More than 18 houses in New Hampshire were burglarized after their Facebook status was checked and the criminals thought that they wouldn’t be home.
Address: If your address is on your profile and you let people know you’re going to be out of town, well, you can see what would happen. Nonetheless, 21 percent of social network users post their address, according to Identity Theft 911.
Mother’s maiden name: It may seem like common sense not to post your mother’s maiden name on a social networking site, but about 11 percent of people who responded to a recent survey said they did.
Not only should you avoid posting any of this information online, but you should also adjust your Facebook settings to control who sees what on your page. Also, use a different password for social media sites than you use for financial sites, such as a bank or a line of credit.
Larry Jacobs is an officer in the crime prevention unit of the Sandy Springs Police Department. He can be reached at email@example.com.