Saturday, March 2, 2013

 We hear a lot about social media and social networks these days.  The benefits are well known.  They make meeting and connecting with new people easy, and they facilitate easy communication between groups of friends and professional contacts.  But, what about the risk?  Many users aren’t even aware of there being any risk.  In fact, this seems to be precisely what makes social media and networks the hunting ground of criminals. International investigators  say it’s important for subscribers to know the risk, and to take appropriate precaution.

Many users share their lives and daily activity and even personal data on sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and others.  We post photographs, emotional states, work promotions, vacations,  weekend trips, relationship status, and even some post dates of birth (birthdays), and addresses.  Users sometimes broadcast to the world who they are, where they live and where they work, and even what they look like, how they feel, and their current relationship status.   Never before has so much been at stake in the world of privacy protection, and the issue is growing. This article will take a look at just some of the major risks of sharing too much information online.

1. Identify Theft
By sharing too much information on social media, you open the doors to criminals who are actively seeking your information.  Criminals love to get their hands on personal data such as full name, address, date of birth, employer, SS#, photographs, etc.  Keep the info offline.

2. Loss of Privacy
By posting photos and information on Facebook or Twitter or other sites, users may not always know or understand that the information can easily be spread across the internet.  By posting personal information on the internet, it may soon make your life an open book.  While it may not be important to you now, it could come back to haunt you.  People have a right to privacy, and a right to know who is using, selling, distributing, buying and stealing their information.  While companies like Google, Facebook and MyLife continue to profit from tracking your internet usage and selling your information, it’s important to fight back, and keep your internet profile small.

3. Romance Scams
Whether you’re looking for love or not, romance scams and experienced internet criminals can target you online.  Even if you’re on Facebook and not looking to meet someone, a trained scammer can open up some conversation, trust and eventually your pocketbook.  Keep your circle of friends and sharing to a trusted minimum, and be skeptical of new contacts.

4. False Profiles
So you’ve found the perfect contact online, and want to share more or get to know the person better? International background check professionals estimate that as many as 50% of all profiles on the internet are false or fraudulent.  Be safe, and verify with a professional private investigation firm if needed.  The internet is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’ll get.

5. Employment Risk
More employers and companies around the world are joining the trend of violating your privacy and your rights.  Many managers and human resource representatives are now searching Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin for information on you prior to, during and after your employment!  This means the crazy incident that happened over the weekend, that you shared online with “friends” could end up costing you your job!  Think before you share, and remember people are watching.

6. Serious Crime
It’s not all about spam and identity theft.  Many cases of harassment, stalking, burglary, rape and even murder start online.  Criminals use the internet to learn more about you before they make their move.  It’s not uncommon for criminals to find your house on Google, find an image of your house on Google Maps, and then find out even more about you and your family on MyLife or similar site that collect, sell and distribute your personal data without your consent! 

7. Hacking Risk
Connecting with strangers and unknown people from around the world on social networks opens you up to hacking risk, whether through email or links and attachments.  A harmless communication with a new contact could give a criminal access to your computer and passwords. 

8. Viruses and Spam
Once a spammer or internet criminal has your confirmed contact information, he is likely to send you a virus or spam, and even sell your email address to other online criminals.  Keep communication on the social network, and be cautious about revealing your email.

9. Investment Scams
Looking for investment or business opportunities on Linkedin or other social networks?  Be safe and verify.  Contact a professional to verify the company or representative with an international due diligence  or background check investigation to minimize your risk for fraud.

10. Fake Job Offers
Think you’ve found the perfect job opportunity?  Many scammers target users of social networks pretending to be employers with great opportunities.  Their goal is to get your personal data, resume and even a payment from you.  Be skeptical and verify the company.

Best of luck,

A Hathaway
© 2013 A Hathaway

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This copyrighted article was written and published by the editor and site author, A. Hathaway, or other guest private investigator, expert or contributor as noted.