Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I'm the first to admit that time spent off the bike means I start obsessing about other things. But my current obsession on Facebook and privacy is definitely warranted... and you should be paranoid too.

Identity theft. Ever heard of it? Ever dealt with it?

The Federal Trade commission estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identity stolen each year. Sure you've probably heard of someone having their social security number lifted and then found out later some impersonator had opened a credit line in their name. Then that person probably bored you with the details of all the hoops and red tape they had to ensue to clear their name.

But what about the current form of identity theft taking social networks by storm?

Did you ever stop to think when you signed up for Facebook or MySpace that you should deselect certain options - like not allowing non-friends to view information about you? Or how about when you download a "fun" application (who doesn't have the food throwing ability on their profile?) that this was allowing third party applications to view ALL of your personal data? Unless you have specifically gone through the myriad of security measures (that are NOT user friendly, by the way) then you are opening yourself up for potential identity theft.

I hope this is common knowledge for most. I hope I'm just preaching to the choir.

But let me back up a bit and put into context my recent paranoia.

A few months ago, I was surfing FB at work. On my home page in the friend suggestion box a name popped up that has ZERO connection to anyone anywhere within my social network. He was someone I only contact in the professional world. I immediately grew suspicious.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine mentioned that she thought we were friends already on FB and that she keeps getting a friend request from me. I thought nothing of it, and so did she until she kept getting the same request this past week. She forwarded me the profile and this other "Jennifer Triplett" has lifted 7 photos from my profile in attempt to gain access to my friend's profile. She knew it wasn't me when that fake profile only had two friends on it. We both immediately reported the profile.

Then later that very day, I receive an email from "Microsoft" reporting that my email server is changing and it needs me to update some information. I contacted my friend Josh who hosts my site to let him know about the email and he said it looks like fraud.

Three instances that have sent me into a serious paranoia and serious contemplation of shutting down and closing all of my social networks.

I suppose the moral of the story? Keep tabs on all of your stuff. Set your privacy settings to Fort Knox proportions. Don't let it happen to you. And make sure your friends and family are doing the same.

(PS - I get back on the bike next week. :)

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