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Social Networking and Identity Theft: Staying Safe Online

written by: Lucinda Watrous•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 11/25/2009

In part two of our series on Social Networking Safety, we address the importance of identity theft protection and how to ensure your identity is safe online. This information should be shared with everyone in the home who uses social networking websites.

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    Ways Identities are Stolen

    The number of ways identities can be stolen online continues to increase. Social networking websites are no angel when it comes to being part of the equation. Hackers and thieves use these networks to obtain the information they need to wreak havoc on those who innocently use these sites.

    Social networking sites are commonly used to connect to new people for various reasons, so it is no surprise to get a message from a friend of a friend. Similar to the way that social networking sites contribute to the spread of malware, these sites can also contribute to identity theft when people who use them go off site to enter personal information or to make a purchase.

    If someone decides to meet another user from the social network in person, there is nothing that says that the other party has good intentions. Meeting in person can lead to identity theft (or worse) the same way entering the wrong information online can.

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    How to Protect Your Identity

    Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to using social networking websites and protecting your identity.

    • Don't place your photo on your profile. If you do, use one that looks real, but isn't you or someone you know.
    • Don't place your real location on your profile. Don't use one that is anywhere close to you, either.
    • Consider using a pen name of sorts rather than your real name. Make it sound real, but not close to yours.
    • Remember, you never really know who you are dealing with on the other end of the network, so be careful what you say and who you say it to.
    • Never post information such as a telephone number, address, or social security number online.
    • Once you post information online, you cannot take it back. Simply deleting the profile doesn't rid the information from computers that could have saved it while it was there!
    • Don't post anyone else's information, either.
    • Make your screen name something that doesn't give clues about who you are, where you are, or how old you are.
    • Keep your passwords similar to your screen name and make sure to change them frequently.

Social Networking Safety

Social networking is a powerful communication tool and great for connecting with people; however, there are some risks associated with its use. This series will detail the risks, protecting against identity theft, and protecting against malware.
  1. Social Networking Safety: Overview and Risks
  2. Social Networking and Identity Theft: Staying Safe Online
  3. Social Networking Safety: Protecting Against Malware