Here in Boston, Channel 7 television news broadcast an interesting identity-theft report which I believe all consumers of popular social networking sites -- like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter -- should be aware of:
"When you're connecting online - and filling out your profile - experts say you could be leaving yourself vulnerable. The trouble can start with something as simple as your birthday... It seems harmless putting your birth date in your profile - but with that one bit of info we found identity thieves can actually get a copy of your birth certificate - a key document. And it's not hard to do."
The news broadcast showed how the reporters were able to get a valid copy of consumers' birth certificates. Some states, like Massachusetts, have lax procedures for distributing birth certificates. The bottom line: your complete birthday (e.g., March 12, 1984) is one of the valuable pieces of sensitive personal data which identity thieves can (and do) use. Here's how consumers can protect their identity information:
"Experts say, to keep safe - Never list your birthday publicly. Online - you should only become "friends" with people you know. And make sure your profile page is set to "private" or "friends only."
Should consumers display a partial birthday (e.g., March 12)? I've noticed that some Facebook users display a partial birthday. I don't disclose my birthday at all. Why? It still seems risky to display a partial birthday, because a determined identity thief can pretty easily deduce your birth year from your high school (or college) graduation.
It's important for consumers to practice safe identity-protection habits when using social media sites. Interested consumers can view the video or read the transcript at the Channel 7 site. Want to learn more? Read this prior post about birth dates.