Authored by a Symantec employee
Celebrating life’s milestone events is something we cherish. Births, weddings, and anniversaries. Even a death, although sad, can be a reason to celebrate the life of a loved one. And in most cases, as we share news of these milestones with friends, family, or our larger social networks, we never stop to consider that positive information could be used in a negative way. But it could.
When my father passed away, I wrote his obituary and submitted it electronically to my local newspaper with the thought that his wide circle of friends — too many to contact individually — would have a better chance of seeing the details of his funeral service. What I didn’t stop to think about was that everybody would have access to that information. Information that included the location, date, and time of the service, plus full names of immediate family members. And, since my local paper is part of a large online publishing company, that obituary was posted online for the entire world to see.
In retrospect, we’re lucky that we weren’t taken advantage of by criminals, who could easily have deduced that all of our family members would be at the funeral, and not at our residences, on that particular day. Because many people use popular social networking sites, and divulge varying degrees of private information, it probably would have been simple to find our home addresses and target them for burglary.
We were lucky, and I hope this personal story will serve as a lesson to others who may overshare their private information in the rush to celebrate other life events online, like these:
Few joyous occasions in life can compare to the birth of a baby. Although you’ll be brimming over with parental pride, you may want to stop to consider that announcing your baby’s full name and date of birth could allow cybercriminals to pair that information with online research for mother’s maiden name, which might enable them to commit identity fraud. This particular type of fraud can go undetected for several years, until your baby is all grown up and tries to start building credit.
Similarly, wedding announcements can provide too much information that thieves can use to their benefit. If you publish all of the details of your upcoming wedding ceremony, you’ll be saying where you’ll be and when — which typically means you won’t be at home. By researching public records, would-be-thieves could track down your home address and plan a burglary for your special day.
Top 5 Tips for Safer Sharing on Social Media
Sharing our special moments on social networks allows us to stay connected with loved ones we may not get to see all the time. You don’t have to stop sharing, but you may want to consider these suggestions for safer social sharing online.
- Check your privacy settings on your social sharing sites.
Although you may originally have set your updates for viewing by people you are connected to, some social networking sites update their policies, and users don’t realize they have to opt-out of some new public-view settings.
- Only accept invitations to link online with people you know well in real life.
Unless the information you share is very general, it’s probably safer only to accept invitations to connect with people you know.
- Don’t display the names of the people in your network.
While you may not be victimized directly, your connections might be. Spear-phishing scams rely on cybercriminals gathering enough personal information to send out convincing emails, seemingly from people known by the target. With access to the names of your connections, your friends may start to get bogus emails from somebody pretending to be you.
- Make celebration announcements that aren’t too specific.
Don’t give out full names of attendees or exact locations or dates unless absolutely necessary. Save details for the invitations you’re sending to guests.
- 5. Share but don’t overshare.
Before making your announcements online, take a moment to remember you should be cautious. Don’t be guilty of TMI — too much information. The information you choose to share may be shared by your connections to their networks. Ultimately, once your information is on the Internet, you have no control over who may see it.
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