Are You Sharing Too Much Information Online?

July 11, 2013

information onlineOne of the great things about the Internet is that it’s possible to keep in touch with others. It’s easy to share what’s going on in your life, and to see what’s happening in the lives of those you care about.

However, there is a possibility that you’re sharing too much information online. If you aren’t careful, you could easily end up sharing enough information that fraudsters could use it to commit identity theft or hack your accounts.

Information Scammers Can Use

You might be surprised at the information that scammers can use to get information about you. Sharing high school information, such as when you graduated, can allow fraudsters to figure out what year you were born. Combine that with the fact that you share your birthday (even if you don’t share the year) publicly, and a scammer could guess your birthdate.

Common security questions for various accounts include questions about such items as:

  • Pet names
  • City of birth
  • High school mascot
  • Mother’s maiden name
  • Best man at your wedding
  • Best friend during high school

Now, think about how many of these items you have available online, via Facebook or some other social network, or whether you’ve mentioned some of them in tweets or even on blog posts that you’ve written about your life.

I make it a point not to share information about where I was born over the Internet. Yes, my hometown is listed. However, my “hometown” is merely where I went to high school, and not where I was actually born.

When you have the opportunity to make up your own security question, take it. Then, create a question that has an answer that you aren’t going to share anywhere online.

You might be amazed at where scammers can find information about you. And if you really think about what you’re sharing, you might be surprised. From friending your mom on Facebook to seeing where your friends have been vacationing, you can give something away that identity thieves and fraudsters can use against you.

How Scammers Use What they Find Online

In some cases, you might be coaxed into clicking on a particular link. If scammers can see what you’re interested in, they might send an email with a “special deal.” You click the link and are whisked away to a site that uploads malware to your computer. Information about where you shop online can be used to send phishing communications that encourage you to enter account information.

It’s also possible for scammers to use information found online to trick you into “helping” a distressed friend. A quick look at Facebook can let a scammer know where your friends might be traveling. Then, they can send you a message (or even call you, if your phone number is public) and tell you that they are in trouble and need your help. You are asked to wire money and – poof – it’s gone. And all the time your friend was safe and sound.

Many hackers use information in social media profiles and shared on blogs to guess passwords and login information. If a scammer has your email address, and a list of pet names, children’s birthdays, and other information, it’s possible to try different combinations until they hit on a combination that works. There are computer programs that do this automatically, so it doesn’t even have to be that hard for hackers to get into your account if you base your log in and password choices on things in your life.

Even worse: If you use the same login information for multiple sites, all a hacker has to do to wreak complete havoc with your life (and your finances) is to crack one account.

In order to protect yourself, it’s important that you be careful about what you share online. When choosing account login information and passwords, as well as security questions, choose items that are unrelated to your public life. Yes, it’s harder to remember (you can get a password manager, or encrypt a list) when you aren’t taking cues from your everyday life. However, your information will be safer.

And, finally, be wary of anyone who approaches you and asks for something. Don’t click on links in emails; instead, open a new window and go to the “official” home page. Be wary of what information you believe, since no matter how well someone seems to know you, they might have only pulled the information from the Internet.

Are you concerned that you’ve shared too much information online?


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Miranda writes about personal finance almost every day. An experienced freelance writer, she's covered your money online and in print from every angle and is always looking for new ones.

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2 Responses to Are You Sharing Too Much Information Online?

  • Simon | ModestMoney

    This days we are constantly bombarded with requests to share personal info whether directly or not, from social media, all those forms we fill online etc. Ofcourse its scary wondering the kind of info on us out there and wondering what some clever scammer would be using that info for. In the end, one ought to be extra careful with what you share, guard your privacy in a paranoid manner as it is!

  • Grayson @ Debt Roundup

    I have always thought that was too much information online, especially now a days. I do tend to try to use different passwords and make them hard enough that I rarely know what they are. Also, I don’t share the answers to my questions on my blog or anywhere else.