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    Opinion at Washington Post: Your online profile may help identity thieves

    In a column at the Washington Post, Michelle Singletary discusses how publishing data about yourself in online profiles at social-networking sites can leave you vulnerable to identity thieves and data mining:

    We’ve become a society that shares too much of our personal information — and all that voluntary transparency makes us vulnerable to crooks.

    When companies fail to protect our privacy, we are rightfully upset. Javelin Strategy & Research, in its latest report about identity theft, says that about 36 million people were notified of a data breach in 2011. Having your information lost or stolen during a breach doesn’t automatically mean you will be a victim of identity theft, but it certainly greatly increases the odds.

    Those who suffer data breaches are 9.5 times more likely to be victims of identity fraud than are other consumers, according to Javelin. […]

    Using stolen Social Security numbers or credit cards and other financial information, identity thieves buy cars, get cellphones and open new credit card accounts.

    This is the ninth year of Javelin’s examination of identity fraud, and for the first time the research firm looked at social media and mobile phone behavior. Javelin found that people are making it easier for identity thieves to piece together the information needed to steal their good credit name because, as my grandmother Big Mama would say, “You’re telling too much of your business.”

    People using LinkedIn, Google, Twitter and Facebook had the highest incidence of fraud, the company said. […]

    Think about the details of your personal life you’re posting. Are you revealing your likes, dislikes, favorite foods, hobbies? You may think these details are insignificant, but they can be opportunities for people skilled at mining such information to guess your passwords.

    Do you absolutely have to tell everybody and their mama on your Facebook page or on Twitter about the latest escapade of your pet, especially if you use your pet’s name as a password or part of a password?

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