Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Email and Identity Theft Protection

When you think of personal information that can be used for identity theft, you probably think of name, birthday or social security number.  Things that rarely come to mind but should be protected are email and social media accounts.

Identity theft occurs when someone uses someone else’s personal information without authorization.  You may not think that a compromised email account can cause much damage, but it can be a doorway to more sensitive information.  Think about it, after your name, your email account is probably your most public piece of personal information.  Email addresses often contain your name, a number that is important to you, or your company name.  Identity thieves can use these harmless little pieces of information as breadcrumbs to lead them to more sensitive and profitable information.  Many user IDs and passwords are reset through email.  So if your email account is hacked, that can lead to more valuable accounts, such as online banking, being reset.  Smooth-talking crooks can even try to use your email address combined with other readily available information to convince others that they are you.

Social media can also put you at risk for identity theft.  Get familiar with privacy settings and try to limit who can see your posts and profile.  Keep in mind that options available for privacy settings change periodically, so even once you think you have them set up for maximum security, you should go back and check sometimes.  You may also want to go back and check past posts and things that you were tagged in for information that you no longer want to share.  You do not want a potential employer to do some research on you and find lots of highly unprofessional photos from a spring break years ago.  Thieves love it when you over-share and don’t set your privacy settings on social media because they can find answers to your password recovery security questions.  For example, they can find your mother’s maiden name by looking at who you have listed as family; or find a favorite vacation spot by going though your photos.

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