More and more people are now choosing to put information about themselves online. This could be through social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace, blogs or online CVs. It is important to remember that any site where you leave personal information about yourself could leave you open to misuse of your information or fraud.
Protect yourself from identity theft and fraud
Posting personal information on the internet can leave you open to misuse of your information or identify fraud. Potential fraudsters can take seemingly random pieces of information about you from a range of sources to take guesses at bank security questions; build up a profile of you which allows them to impersonate you; open up credit cards in your name; or get access to more of your personal information.
Be careful about making the following information publicly available:
- Your full name
- Your full address
- National Insurance Number
- Date of birth
- Telephone number
Don’t make the following information publicly available:
- Mother’s maiden name
- Current place of study
- Current employer
- Recent addresses
- Recent places of study e.g. last school attended
- Details of your interests e.g. pet’s names, favourite film, favourite colour
Be suspicious of anyone who asks for your bank account or credit card details.
Protect your privacy
Making information about yourself publicly available online can mean that you are telling complete strangers about you. When a web site or social network is asking you to provide personal information, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you know who has access to your personal information?
- Do you know how your information will be used?
- Are you happy with this?
Here are some tips to help you protect your privacy and prevent information about yourself and your lifestyle from being discovered by people who you'd rather didn't see it.
Check settings and security
Before you disclose any personal information, always make sure that you are using a secure site. A secure web site will display a padlock icon in the bottom right hand corner of your web browser.
Be aware of who can benefit from your personal information
Check the privacy statements on websites to find out what your personal information will be used for. Your details could be sold to other companies for their marketing purposes. Check you are able to opt in/opt out so you can choose whether your details are passed on.
Protect your identity
Use social networking sites’ privacy settings to determine who can view your profile and contact information. Consider setting up a free email account specifically for use on social networking sites, rather than your main email account.
Be aware of cookies
Cookies are files which are stored on your computer by web sites to store information about you between sessions. Different applications can have their own cookie files, for example Internet Explorer and Adobe Flash player. There is generally a method to control the storage of cookies which by default is often "enabled", you can normally change this default, for example set your internet browser to warn you when a cookie is installed or in Microsoft Internet Explorer block cookies.
Be careful what you say and show!
Be aware that once information has been posted online it can become almost impossible to remove because of archiving and file sharing. Even if you deactivate your social networking account, the information may still be held in the system and be accessible.