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How to Keep Personal Information Private when You Network Online

Nowadays people often meet and talk with their friends and share experiences, sometimes personal information, on online networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. You need to be careful about how much personal information you post online. The more you post, the easier you make it for the thief posing as a friend to get your information and steal your identity.

How to know what information to keep private

The best advice to give you is to keep your personal information offline. Of course, you wouldn’t put your Social Security Number (SSN) online, but what about

  • Your date of birth?

  • The city where you live?

  • Your cellphone number?

  • Your name? A pseudonym?

Do you give that information to those who have befriended you on a private chat page? Personal networking pages aren’t the only pages where you need to be careful with sharing personal information; the same logic applies to professional networking pages. You can post a resumeì, but you don’t need to include any personal information, such as your home address. Prospective employers can contact you initially by e-mail.

Use the same discretion online that you would when meeting friends in public, new or old. Don’t share your SSN, your birth date (not right away, anyway), your full name, and so on. Be wary of someone who asks too many personal questions while networking. If you feel uncomfortable, it’s probably for a good reason. Listen to your intuition; these feelings are often correct.

Basic guidelines to follow to share personal information

Here are some simple rules to follow when networking online:

  • Do not post personal information on public pages. Things to exclude are

    • Date of birth (DOB)

    • SSN

    • Address (including the city where you live)

  • Strongly consider excluding the following from your public pages.

    • Full name: Some social networks do require you to use your REAL name, but you don’t have to tell them everything. Leave out your middle name and other identifiers, like Jr., Sr., or numbers.

    • Pictures of yourself: This can be a sticky subject, especially regarding LinkedIn or sites with other professional functions. If you must post a picture that can be viewed by everybody on the Internet, ensure that the account contains only information tied to your business. Everything else should be left out.

  • Be careful who you allow to see your personal pages.

    • This is true especially for those whom you meet online because people who use the Internet to prey on other people are out there.

    • Keep your circle of contacts on your personal page to those who you know in real life and not just from the Internet (but still be careful).

  • Be skeptical of anyone you just met (especially online) who attempts to get too close.

    • If this person claims to be a friend of one of your friends, verify it.

    • If this person asks too many questions that make you feel uncomfortable, do not give them any information.

  • Avoid answering questions about schools you attended, what year you graduated, or even your pet’s name. Answers to these questions can help someone figure out your year of birth or the answer to security questions you choose in case you forget your password(s).

  • Avoid making family connections on social networking sites. Doing so provides too much information — such as your mother’s maiden name, your place of birth, and so on — that potential identity thieves can use to get other information about you.

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