Safe Finances Online (part 2): What Should Be Kept Confidential?

Anyone old enough to be enrolled in elementary school knows that you shouldn’t leave certain possessions sitting around in public— they could be stolen. Purses, wallets, computers, iPods, and cell phones are very tempting to thieves, and if you leave them unattended, they likely won’t be there when you return.

The Internet also has thieves, and you must also take caution “in public”, i.e. anywhere online. But instead of objects, thieves target information.

Your personal data is the key to your real-world lifestyle, your persona. If a thief can take advantage of it, he will.

Let’s say your Facebook account displays your phone number to friends and friends-of-friends. You decide to spend a weekend at the beach, and announce this through your status. An ill-intending friend-of-a-friend (or friend) can perform a reverse look-up on your phone number to find your address, and break into your home while you’re conveniently away.

Even information as innocent as “weekend at the beach! see ya!” can have awful consequences if it floats around for the global community to see.

But the point is not to be paranoid. The point is to be choosy with what you reveal.

So here’s what to do to protect your information:

Be strict with Facebook and Linkedin settings. Let only friends access your private information, and even then you should be picky about what you broadcast. The same goes for any other personal web pages you maintain.

Don’t give out your address and phone number. White page searches make these available to begin with. Don’t make a crook’s job any easier.

Keep quiet about your relatives’ vital stats. Sure, you can mention mom or dad in a Facebook post. But don’t offer their full names or birth dates (especially your mother’s maiden name). These are standard security questions, and they are fuel for ID theft.

No specifics about your car. That includes your license plate number, your VIN, your insurance info, your title number, and your driver’s license number. Not only does your ID theft risk increase, so does your risk for car theft!

And of course, your Social Security number. Keep it secret.

Alexander Carl

Alexander Carl

I find it difficult to brag about myself. Too modest? Perhaps.

Anyway: my name is Alexander Carl. I am a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I spent four blissful years earning a degree in Communication Studies. Now I face the real world of economic downturns, student loans, and the absence of “academic” camaraderie.

Yet I refuse to be bummed. My economic philosophy is to live simply, save, and maximize whatever I can. Consumer culture is undeniably pervasive, but you don’t have to sell your soul to co-exist with it— there is great power from using your economic resources wisely.

I started writing when I figured out how to hold a pencil. Since then I’ve written short stories, poetry, screenplays, and have blogged. In fact, three of my screenplays have been produced into short films, two of which I directed. I’m no stranger to the media, having served as a DJ at a freeform radio station and worked as a crew member for live TV.

Pastimes include traveling (I’ll visit virtually anywhere), swimming, jogging, hiking, and hunkering down with a good movie.

Overall I’m a peaceful person, though not in a creepy New Agey way. I get my energy from music, good conversation, and the outdoors (I was an active Boy Scout, earning my Eagle). I consider myself “inquisitive” and “wry”, and for the sake of autobiography I’ll assume that I am.
Alexander Carl

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