TMI! Don't Over-Share

How I Stole Someone’s Identity from Scientific American, is an excellent article that makes it painfully clear how easy it is for someone to hack your bank accounts with information found on social media sites, blogs, as well as from public information accessible on the Internet.

Hackers are extremely savvy at finding your personal information to answer account “protection” questions used by financial institutions to help you recover forgotten passwords. Once hackers have a few key pieces of data about you, they can reset your passwords and take control your accounts.

Answers to questions like place of birth (hometown), first pet, etc. can often be found by anyone trolling social media sites to get answers–regardless of how you set your privacy settings. Privacy settings mainly keep the honest people out.

Don’t over-share! Information you share on your Facebook profile (and info section) and other social networks about employment history, schools, family, interests, contact information is a gift to hackers. Don’t help them by volunteering this information. Unlike exams at school, these are questions you can, and should, leave blank. Does everyone on your friend list really need to know where your were born? When it comes to personal data, less is more.

Suggestion: When answering password reset questions on online accounts, you don’t actually have to use your real information. You can make up a “fake” mother’s maiden name (or first pet, best man, etc.) to use specifically for account protection purposes. Once you decide on this “false” information, write it down so you don’t forget. If you have joint accounts, make sure the other parties on these accounts know the information also–but PLEASE, don’t email, text, Facebook, or blog it to them :-).