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Is Myspace And My Facebook Really Mine?

Jan 1, 2008
One of the fastest growing crimes in the United States today is identity theft. It is estimated that this year approximately 6 million identity theft crimes will occur in varying degrees. These types of crimes may be anything from borrowing your photos from Facebook or MySpace pages and using it to create some form of identification, to altering it in astounding ways and setting up a new website; to making purchases and obtaining credit with your personal, financial and credit information.

Social networking sites, such as MySpace, Facebook and others are some of the most popular uses of the internet right now. People use it to promote bands, businesses, people and just staying in touch. However, there are some pitfalls with so much easily accessible personal information in one place.

On social networking sites information that may seem inconsequential may like hitting the "jackpot" to an identity thief. I was able to find out where a college aged man lived, what school he went to, his birth date and what his plans are for the Christmas holidays; all within a matter of moments. Give me about 10 more minutes and I would probably be able to find out enough information to be able to start my own new identity from his.

What information can be obtained with a keyboard and a few minutes on MySpace? Let's start with your profile, where you may have posted your picture, your city, state, sometimes even your address, birth date, your last vacation, and your plans for other vacations, and simply general comments about what you do, when you do it and where you do it. With that information you can also be sent follow up emails which may gather additional personal information; such as one individual who was sent an email, which appeared to be from his university requesting verification of his social security number. Within minutes the mail had been sent and the student's now so called personal information is someone else's.

What can be done to keep your "space" really your "space?" First, set your profile to private, allowing access to your information from only those that you invite or add to your list. However, this doesn't work if you simply add to your list anyone who contacts you and asked to be added. Be careful who you share information with.

Make sure that your password is different for your email account as it is for your MySpace, Facebook or other social networking sites. Be aware of postings and changes to your social networking site that you did not post, it is possible that someone is accessing your account. Be sure to have different passwords for each networking site, email account and other online services. One common mistake is to provide a cell phone numbers, address, or employment history. All of this information can be used to create a credit account in their names.

Another reason that users of social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace are at high risk is because so many of their users "trust" those that they meet online By providing your unqualified trust to a stranger, you are putting yourself at risk. It is possible that those friends you make online are simply there to gain information to use for some other purpose.

The National Cyber Security Alliance http://staysafeonline.org advises that people think of social networking sites as "billboards in cyberspace." Would you want your credit card or employment information on a billboard? Or when you will be gone from your home? To stay safe from identity theft online; be careful what information you post, make sure to keep your profiles safe and secure by limiting access, use unique hard to discover passwords, and make sure to use up to date anti virus as well as Spy ware software programs. In this way, you can know that you are taking the appropriate precautions to keep your personal and financial information safe as well as having a good time with your friends on these sites.
About the Author
Lisa Carey is a contributing author for Identity Theft Secrets: prevention and protection. You can get tips on Identity theft protection, software, and monitoring your credit as well as learn more about the secrets used by identity thieves at the Identity Theft Secrets blog.
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