30 May 2008

Five Easy Ways to Ruin Your Life Without Leaving Home

While scouting the 'Net for interesting tidbits to share with the Totem Media community, I found several examples* of how easy it is to ruin your life via the Web.

1. Associate your real full name with your Net identity.
Although many people may know either your real name, personal nickname, or Net name on various boards/lists, very few should have all of that information. It isn't about lying to "online friends," it is about protecting yourself from people you really don't know - and who may be lying to you.

2. Share your family/spouse/kids/pets names and photos with everyone.
Get ready to open your wallet and hand over your hard earned cash to scammers and con men when you list all of your vital family statistics in one place. Identity thieves don't have to steal your postal mail or "phish" your e-mail. They can find out everything they need to steal your identity and credit by going to your non-password-protected family history and photo album.

3. Give out your state/city/neighborhood. This one is more difficult to prevent, especially if you're discussing local events or politics, but try to limit how many boards, sites, or lists have both your city and state information. People in major metropolitan areas may feel more secure because they're just "one amongst millions," but the local phone book, tax records office, and other public information is online and easily accessible to criminals.

4. Show off your wealth (ego). We all know people who bolster their income to impress their friends or family. It's unneccessary and annoying in real life, but can be dangerous online. You might think, "No one would kidnap me or my family," or "No one would steal from me," but criminals aren't the smartest or hardest working people and if they think they've found a rich and easy mark, they could put you and your loved ones in harm's way. Plus, if you're actually wealthy, you don't need to boast about it to millions of anonymous people.

5. List all of your education, business, personal history. Your curriculum vitae should only be available to potential employers and your family. Con men and identity thieves can use information you provide about your alma mater, previous or current employment, and private history to impersonate you. Much more common is when begrudged former friends pretend to be you so they can destroy your online reputation.

If you have no desire to ruin your life, be aware how easy it is from the comfort of your office or den and take steps to reduce your exposure. Speaking of exposure,...

BONUS!! 6. Use your well-known Net identity or e-mail on an adult website. See our May 19 entry to learn how easy it is to ruin your business!

*It is scary how quickly and easy it is to find examples. In fact, I found examples of the first five items on one web page! I won't list the URL, because online criminals don't need any help from me!