In the wake of the “truth is stranger than fiction” Manti T’eo story and the upcoming Valentine’s holiday, it seems like an opportune time to review some basic online safety precautions. Not to mention, MTV’s “Catfish” show chronicles stories of people falling in love online and being fooled when they discover the person they’ve been talking to for months –even years – isn’t the person they thought it was.
These stories show just how easy it is to create a persona online: Pick a name. Find a photo of an attractive person online. Create an account on a social networking site.
The first lesson when doing anything on line is: STOP. THINK. CONNECT. Take a moment to really process the information and think things through before you jump headfirst into a relationship.
Here are some other tips:
- Own your online presence. Set the privacy and security settings on websites to your comfort level for information sharing. It’s okay to limit how people can find you or communicate with you. If someone you don’t recognize wants to connect with you, think twice before hitting the “accept” button.
- If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Often it pays to be the skeptic. If an attractive person contacts you out of the blue on a social networking site and starts professing their love for you within days of meeting, this should raise a red flag. Chances are the person doesn’t look a thing like they do in photos and in extreme cases, may be trying to con you.
- Think before you act. If they tell you a sob story about losing their job or a sick relative, this should also raise a red flag. They could be trying to get you to wire them money or give them access to your bank account.
- Protect your personal information. You wouldn’t tell a stranger on the street your home address, ATM pin number, or social security number, would you? The same rule applies online. Even if you have been talking to someone for a while and don’t think of them as a “stranger,” you still need to be wary, especially if you’ve never met in person.
- Do your own research. Pretend you’re a private investigator and do some digging. Type the person’s name into a search engine and see what comes up. Drag their photo into Google image search. The results could surprise you.
- Be a good online citizen. What you do online has the potential to affect everyone – at home, at work and around the world. Practicing good online habits benefits the global digital community.
- Post only about others as you have them post about you.
In the unfortunate (and rare) situation that you become the victim of fraud, you can learn how to get your life back on track with our Victims of Cybercrime Tip Sheet.
For more on identity theft precautions visit www.hvshred.com