Thursday, November 25, 2010
How to avoid identity thieves and scammers online
Thanks to sites like Facebook and Twitter, it's now normal to share pieces of ourselves online – even to random strangers. For some people, sharing updates on their lives with friends, families, and online contacts always feels good, leading to a minor high for every reaction generated.
But there's a danger associated with being too open. Share too much, and you give fodder for scammers and identity thieves to exploit. Here are some things you never ever share online, whether on your favorite social-networking site, through email, or even instant-messaging apps.
* Full real name. I won't make it easy for you, but you can find my whole real name on the Internet if you know where to look for it. When I started blogging regularly, I made the mistake of assertively addressing myself by my full real name. Out of a sense of unwarranted self-importance, I'm sure. Then I discovered that credit-card hotlines ask for your real name when verifying your identity over the phone. So that's one less mystery to solve for those who want to pretend to be me.
* Full birthday or age. Here's another tidbit credit-card hotlines verify to confirm your identity. Luckily, I was less forthcoming with it when I started my online career. I would freely share my birth date, but not my birth year. That way, you still get online greetings on your special day, without making it easier for other people to pretend that they're you. As far as I know, only my close friends know exactly when I was born – and I hardly think they have a good reason to broadcast that online. While some keep their age secret out of vanity, it also gives potential scammers less information to work with.
* Credit card CVV or CVC number. This is common sense. The 3 digits towards the right on the back of your credit card is an electronic signature of sorts. With it, anyone who knows your credit-card number, name, expiry date, and billing address can charge stuff to your account with impunity. If you get a call or email from someone claiming to be from your credit-card company and requesting your CVV or CVC for verification purposes, politely refuse – unless you want someone else to max out your card.
* "Secret" email address. I currently maintain at least 2 email accounts. One I make publicly available to people who want to contact me (rico-at-mossesgeld.com), and the other I keep secret. I use this secret email only as a login for sensitive accounts, like my PayPal and online-banking service, and for nothing else. Knowledge of my secret email address would make it a lot easier for scammers to gain access to my financial services online, as they would know what to target for their attempts to seize control of an account through the "Forgot your password?" feature available on many sites.
Keeping select personal info private makes it harder for people to pass themselves off as you and gain access to your accounts. The point is that scammers always look for marks who are foolish enough to make things easy.s.fanbox.com/Aninspirationalstorytoremindustokeepabal">Read More