MEMPHIS (WMC TV) - Social networking sites are one of the greatest inventions since the Internet itself.
I'm constantly amazed at how Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn have enabled me to find people I haven't seen or heard from in years. The Action News 5 Investigators also use them for news-gathering and for reaching out to our viewers.
But you can get too personal with the stuff on your page. Dangerously personal.
Rob Douglas, an information security consultant with www.identitytheft.info and a contributor to consumer resource Bottom Line Personal magazine, listed these items as things you should never post on a social networking site:
* ADDRESSES/BIRTH DATES. Douglas said burglars and stalkers skim social network pages for addresses, particularly those on women's pages. He said if you're having a party, don't post directions to your home on a social networking site. Instead, e-mail the directions to each of your guests. Birth dates are often connected to financial records, so if a site requests that you post or submit a birth date, give a fake one.
* GRADUATION YEAR. Scammers can use your high school or college graduation year to make you think they are your former classmates. You let your guard down, they earn your trust, then they rip you off. Douglas said prospective employers may also use your graduation year to estimate your age, then drop you as a candidate for "being too old." Yes, that's age discrimination, but it's your word against theirs.
* BUSINESS CONTACTS. Douglas said if you post your business contacts on a professional networking site like LinkedIn, people on your contact list will be able to see EVERYONE on your contact list. That's all well and good until a disgruntled friend or former colleague decides to share defamatory information about you with everyone on your contact list, including those clients or prospective employers you might have posted. Douglas added that LinkedIn offers safety features to hide or block access to your contacts list.
* MOTHER'S MAIDEN NAME. Chances are, your credit card company or investment bank uses your mother's maiden name as a security question to confirm you are you.
* DOCTORS' NAMES. Scammers who don't have health insurance might use the names of your doctor, dentist, specialists, etc. to obtain YOUR insurance information and pose as you to get free medical treatment.
* TRAVEL PLANS & SCHEDULES. You just let everybody know when your house will be empty. Might as well send the burglars an invitation.
* VALUABLES. Don't discuss jewelry or art or post pictures of them and identify them as your possessions. Again, another open door to a burglary.
* PETS' NAMES. Since pet names are often used a security questions for password access, don't put them out there for the world to know.
Of course, don't be cavalier with account numbers or your Social Security number, either.
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