It is undeniable that identity theft is a persistent problem that one could face these days if one uses the internet. Transactions made online almost always require some form of exchange of personal information. Granted that with the advent of technology, criminals, too, have evolved in terms of their modus operandi and have learned to use the internet to wreak havoc to innocent internet users’ lives. This makes one think: “Am I really safe anywhere?” Sadly, all signs seem to point to “No.” Crime is something that we have to painfully accept and live with. The constant dark shadow that it casts on society may be hard to avoid but the least that we can do now is know how not to get victimized. These low-lives may have gotten smarter, but we should be able to be a few steps ahead.
Recently my dad and I had this little chat regarding internet safety. It came as a surprise to me that he brought this up because I know that I’m very particular about my privacy, especially when it comes to cyberspace (read: my complex Facebook security settings). I’m aware of the risks involved when putting out personal information over the web for everyone to see, and that whenever the need to post arises, my moves are calculated so as any missteps can be avoided. My dad’s suggestions, albeit tinged with paranoia (you know how parents are) are actually quite helpful.
- Be a little fake. Many sign-up or registration forms on the internet ask people to supply information that is usually reserved for public (as in those registered in the government’s archives) documents. Knowing that the person on the receiving end of these info has the liberty of using these at his or her disposal, it is advisable not to divulge everything in excruciating detail. Perhaps one could provide a fake birthdate, address, or whathaveyou. Dad actually uses “Clark Kent” as his alias when he makes transactions. Now, I do not follow this tip myself but then again I can see where Dad is coming from. After all, he’s had several experiences where his identity was almost stolen… and none of thesemade use of the net. Just imagine if that happened. The possible consequences are endless.
- Hold off the vanity. Now, this is obviously a rule that I do not abide by. I think my 50+ photo albums on Facebook are a testament to this. I just don’t want to seem like a faceless creep. Dad uses this GIF photo of Sylvester the Cat with opening and closing eyelids as his display photo in social networking sites and forums. Since PR is my calling, I don’t think being secretive of your face would make people want to trust you. Anyway, if you insist on posting photos , make sure these are the kind that will haunt once they are unearthed several years from now. I’m pretty sure you had a blast chugging down a bottle of vodka and are proud of the supporting photos that you were tagged in to prove it, but in a few years time, it won’t be a laughing matter if someone tries to blackmail you with them.
- Use a dummy, dummy! Dad says it’s important to keep a couple or so email addresses for different uses. One should be used for official purposes while the rest can be for anything (i.e. online shopping, social networking, forums, porn, etc.). In Dad’s case, he has three: one for the office, one for personal correspondence, and one as a dummy account with “Clark Kent” as the registered owner of the account. I have at least ten emails but a majority of them I have lost their passwords to. Don’t tell my dad though.
Sure enough, Dad really knows his way around the internet as well as keeping his private information… well… private. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. I wish I could say the same for me. My life is such an open book that if it were an actual, tangible reading material, the spine would be nearly torn in half. But hey, I’m young, I’m smart, and I’m certainly not as dumb as my dad thinks… or maybe that’s my immortality complex talking. Whatever the case, if you wish to be safe, DO NOT FOLLOW MY EXAMPLE!