It’s not just expats that manage most of their life online – increasingly, we are doing everything from paying bills to car registration via the world wide web. And while we all lock up our houses and cars and warn our children not to talk to strangers, we are far more trusting with the personal details we share electronically. So we have put together a list of the commonest ways we make identity theft far too easy, and security pointers that you may be missing.

1. Facebook. Oh boy. We enter our names, addresses, telephone numbers, birthdays, and then, just to make sure we really can be identified easily, we add photos. And then we tell everyone we are going on holiday, and how long we are going to be away.. It is now commonly used by employers to get an informal picture of who you are out of work, so be aware of not only what you are posting, but also what appears on your wall from friends. Once you have entered information onto your Facebook profile, it can be shared, both with Facebook ‘partners and via your friends. This means that even if you have chosen to keep your relationship with friends private, if they are not similarly inclined, that information is still publicly available. ”Tagging’ of you in photos etc, also allows anyone (known to you or not) viewing that post to see your profile and any information that is ‘public’.

What to do. Take five minutes to browse through your page, and click on the globe icon next to the various information boxes. If the information is public, you are giving everyone access to your personal details, any unflattering photos of you from 7th grade that your ex-boyfriend has posted, and photos of your children.. Need I say more? It’s also worth browsing through from another computer, to get a birds eye of view of what can be seen. Bottom line – share responsibly, and pick your friends wisely. Check out this article on Learnvest.com for a great step by step guide.

Cellphones/Smartphones/iPads etc. If you take a look at the home screen of my iPhone, you will conveniently have access to the login pages for my bank accounts, my contacts (so that if you don’t know my mother’s maiden name, you can just text her and ask for a reminder), my Facebook and Twitter profile, and my home address and telephone number if you were in any doubt which house to burgle. And if you really wanted to add insult to injury, you could take pictures of your naked backside with the built in phone, and post them my Facebook page or send them to everyone I know.. Scary, huh? Increasingly, smart phones are used as computers, but we don’t treat them with the same amount of care, and regularly leave them sitting on tables in cafes and poking out of pockets. We want them within reach at all times, without for a moment thinking that others can reach them too..

What to do. Take care of your phone. Bear in mind that you carry half your life around in it, and think about what damage might be done if it fell into the wrong hands. Use a pass code – they can be broken, but at least you slow the process down. And while you’re at it, chose a decent one (there’s a link below for guidance, if you are struggling) and change it regularly, and then test it on your kids – my kids are able to work out all my passwords with alarming ease, whereas I have to threaten violence to get access to their iPads. Don’t use the ‘remember me’ feature (see below) for any internet applications that you use – it not only helpfully tells the criminal classes where you bank/shop/work – it gets them halfway into your account. And finally, agree with your partner that any texts for sensitive information should either be confirmed by a call or with a special code before that information is shared..

Internet browsing / Chat rooms. We have a horrible habit of using the same usernames and passwords for secure sites and social sites without thinking, making it really, really easy for hackers to access even secure accounts.

What to do. All the banking security in the world can’t protect you from your own stupidity, so follow the golden rule of not mixing business with pleasure, and use different login names, passwords and preferably email addresses for the different parts of your life.

Autofill. Ever started typing your email address, and lo and behold, the whole address magically appears? Or started buying a book from Amazon, and your billing and shipping address is automatically entered one you type the first letters? That’s the incredible convenience of autofill, which also make it equally useful for anyone using the computer after you to know all those juicy details. With your name and address, it’s not so important, but on some sites, credit card details have also been known to be appear.. Not so good.

What to do. Use a password to protect your home computers, so that if it does get lost or stolen, you at least buy a little time before the new use starts buying up Ebay. Try to avoid using public computers for online purchases, but if you can’t avoid it, use a secure third party payment site like Paypal, which keeps your credit card details secure. If you are using a site that allows autofill to remember your credit card details, notify them immediately.

Round Robin emails. You know how it works – a hilarious email comes in that you can’t resist sharing, and so add all your nearest and dearest to the list, and away it goes. And within 24 hours, your email address and that of great aunt Nellie, your hairdresser and your cousin that works for the government is winging it’s way to inboxes throughout the globe. And then you discover that it had a virus attached, and you sent to to everyone’s work email. Or that a friend of a friend of a friend works for a porn website, and now you and all your email contact list have been added as subscribers.

What to do. Have a ‘trash’ email on one of the independent email providers (Google, Yahoo and Hotmail all have free email accounts)  that you use for signing up to email lists and give out freely to people. Keep a separate private one for financial, medical and personal information, and if you are likely to be receiving highly sensitive information, don’t sync it to every device you own. Don’t send out emails to a string of addresses when the content is designed for mass forwarding – address individually, and selectively.. And don’t use work email addresses. Please.

 

Facebook Data Use Policy –  http://www.facebook.com/about/privacy/your-info-on-fb#controlprofile

Paypal – http://paypal.com

iPhone Security - http://www.apple.com/iphone/business/docs/iPhone_Security.pdf

LifeHacker – How I’d hack your weak password - http://lifehacker.com/5505400/how-id-hack-your-weak-passwords

 

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2 Responses to Too Much Information – The Top 5 ways we make identity theft easier..

  1. ali Bodden says:

    A very timely email btw – my credit card was just used in Jakarta on Thanksgiving, and thanks to the wonderful security people at Chase, they called me to confirm it… I guess when all my petty purchases are made in and around my little Californian hometown, and always for measly dollar amounts, they actually take note when someone tries to make a very large purchase in Indonesia.
    This is serious stuff! They even had the 3 digit code from the BACK of the card.
    thanks for the article!
    Woof woof woof

  2. [...] Ways we make identity theft easier [...]

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