Information you might enter into a social networking or family tree websiteyour name, your ancestors names, your hometown, and even your address and phone numberis already easily available through print and online phone directories, as well as other public records.
Plus, most identity thieves want your financial information and social security number, not just your name and address (or your ancestors names). They’d rather spend their time stealing your mail or wallet, going through your garbage, or hacking stores computer systems.
Get more identity-protection advice at the Federal Trade Commissions theft website.
Social networking sites are designed to help people find you, which is why anyone can search them. But since most of us do want a certain amount of anonymity, sites usually have privacy options. You can choose to display only your name, or you can limit who can access your profile. If youd rather not be found at all, of course, stay off social networking and family tree sites.
Other tips for using these sites:
- Youll have to supply your name and e-mail address when you register for a site, but you may not have to provide your phone number or mailing address.
- Familiarize yourself with the sites privacy statement and its privacy features. Make sure you’re not displaying any information you don’t want displayed.
- For courtesys sake, dont post names, birthdates, hometowns or photos of living people unless you have their permission.
- Making online purchases is generally safe (look for the https in the URL, which symbolizes a secure payment system), but dont enter your credit card information for a site to keep on file just in case you make a purchase. Once you make a purchase, though, the site may save your credit card number.
- If you log into your social networking or family tree profile from a public computer (such as at a library), leave the remember me or “save password” box unchecked and be sure to click the log out link when youre finished, so the next user cant access your account.
- Facebook is pretty good at cracking down on spam messages, which may carry computer viruses or spy software, that may be sent to your Facebook inbox. But to be safe, dont open or forward suspicious-looking messages (for example, those with subject lines like “You wont believe this video!) on any social networking site.
- Dont use your mothers maiden name (or another word someone might easily figure out) for a password on any site.