According to a study from Tessian, the vast majority of people who share things online put their identities at risk. People know not to share information such as their Social Security number on social media, but did you know you could be giving up sensitive information without realizing it?
For example, the Tessian study noted that 72% of people mention birthday celebrations, giving hackers insight into when their date of birth is. More than half of people share names and pictures of their kids, often on public social profiles, and more than 80% said they update social media when they get a new job. All this information can be used by hackers and cybercriminals to steal your identity. or better target you for various scams, including phishing emails.
But what about documents? Is it bad to post a picture of your driver’s license online, for example? Find out about seven types of information and documents you should keep off the internet below.
7 Things You Should Avoid Posting Online
- Images of your driver’s license
- Information about bank accounts or other financial accounts
- Vacation itinerary or location information
- Medical records, including COVID-19 vaccine forms
- Health insurance cards
- Photographs with location identifiers
- Information about your internet-connected devices
1. Driver’s License
What can someone do with a photo of your driver’s license? A lot, actually. Your driver’s license includes a lot of information, including:
- Your full name
- Your address
- Your date of birth
- Approximate height and weight
- Your driver’s license number, which is a unique ID number that might be used for official purposes
- A picture of you
Rope all that together and it’s enough to give a cybercriminal a huge head start when it comes to identity theft. Access to this information could allow identity thieves to open new lines of credit in your name or find ways to access your existing accounts. Obviously, you should never post a picture of your driver’s license on social media.
But is it safe to send someone a picture of your driver’s license? Or, is it safe to send a picture of your ID to someone? It depends.
Sometimes, you need to send a picture of your ID to verify your identity. A common example might be when you’re applying for an online loan. In such cases, as long as you’re dealing with a reputable organization and sending the information via a secure process, it’s usually safe.
2. Information About Financial Accounts
Don’t post specific information about your financial accounts or any documents showing that information online. That includes account numbers, routing numbers, specific balance information or pictures of checks or contracts with payment information. It also includes tax returns or other tax-related documents.
You might think you can use photo-editing apps to cover the most sensitive information, but that’s not always a permanent way to hide the information. It’s a better idea just to leave these types of documents and information off your social profiles, blogs or other public-facing sites.
3. Vacation Information or Itinerary
It’s natural to be excited about a fun getaway and want to share the experience with others. But consider holding off on all the vacation info and photo dumping until you get home from your trip. Avoid sharing information about your getaway beforehand on social media, such as how long you’ll be gone and where you’re going.
If you share information beforehand, potential thieves can know that you’ll be out of your home for that period of time. They could take advantage of your absence and burglarize your property.
4. Medical Records, Including COVID-19 Vaccination Cards
Medical records contain a lot of sensitive information, including personal details that could help hackers steal your identity. From interesting X-ray pictures to written prescriptions, it’s a good idea to keep your medical records between you and your health care providers.
That’s true even of things that are fun or popular to share on social media, including COVID-19 vaccination cards and sonograms of your upcoming family addition. The Federal Trade Commission has publicly advised people against sharing their COVID-19 vaccination cards on social media. And if you really want to share a sonogram picture, ensure you crop out all the written information, such as names and medical record numbers.
5. Health Insurance Cards
Your health insurance card is your passport to medical care. If you post it online, you could be giving that passport to someone else. If someone steals your identity and uses your benefits, that can make it more difficult for you to get the medical care you need in the future.
6. Photographs With Location Identifiers
Depending on your camera settings as well as your social media settings, you could be sharing location information when you share images. Check your mobile device or camera settings and turn off GPS data for photographs. This is possible to do on iOS or Android.
It’s a good idea to avoid posting location data when you share images or posts on social too. Turn off any default settings that do this, and avoid “checking in” at businesses with apps or devices.
Giving away your location can clue people to the fact that you’re not home, increasing the risk of burglary or other crimes. But you should also ensure you’re not sharing photos on public blogs or social media accounts that let people know exactly where you live. Pictures that show street signs, the front of your home or a business on your street, for example, can be a potential risk when sharing publicly.
7. Information About Internet-Connected Devices
Finally, you might want to limit what you share about the internet-connected devices you have in your home. Avoid posting images of those devices or the manuals and instruction cards they came with. Those are all locations where passwords or log-in information might reside. The more a potential hacker can learn about your devices, the easier they may be able to access your home network.
Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft
You can take a number of preventive steps to reduce your risks of identity theft, including being careful about what you post online. And if you do find you’ve been targeted, there are things you can do to protect yourself even after identity theft.
In both cases, signing up for credit monitoring and identity theft protection may be a good idea. You might want to check out ExtraCredit—it includes Guard It, a tool that offers includes $1 million identity theft insurance, dark web monitoring and much more.
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