ID theft: it’s only a matter of time

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According to one expert in identity theft, it’s only a matter of time before my identity is stolen. It happens for many reasons — medical, educational, professional and ultimately for financial reasons. Not that I have a mountain of money to steal …

It’s easy during this wireless Internet age, to gather information about people. For me, it’s not the information I place out for the world to see and to harvest onjust Facebook and LinkedIn. It’s my byline, photos I’ve taken and words I’ve written during years of professional journalism.

I did a quick Google search on my name. In 0.30 seconds, “about 50,200” results popped up, mostly for bylines, including an article I wrote in 1994 about paving Cottonwood Pass.

Nefarious

Nefarious sorts will pay money for personal information for the purpose of selling it to even darker-intended people.

Still, I now think twice before posting or liking on Facebook and revealing personal information on LinkedIn.

Mark Seguin, president and CEO of TBG Solutions, talked about identity theft at a workshop recently for the Colorado Springs SBDC and the BBB of Southern Colorado.

One of his revelations: If you list your birthday and hometown on social media, identity thieves are possibly able to access the first five digits of your Social Security number. Why? Because Social Security numbers are based on date and location of the person for whom the number is sought.

Less is more, he said. The less shared on social media, the more the person is protected from identity theft.

What a person should NOT share on social media, in addition to birthday and hometown is address, phone number, school, college, employer, relationship status, kids’ names and, of course, payment information, Seguin said.

Critical information about every person in the United States has been compromised by some breach, he said, adding the identities have not been stolen and used for unsavory purposes … yet.

Job loss over postings

While the First Amendment still protects freedom of speech, most anything posted to social media can be seen by millions. That can have negative ramifications, he said.

For example, an eighth-grade teacher traveling abroad over spring break posted a photo of herself with two drinks in her hand.

“While she was gone, the parents, the board of education, the school administrators “all voted unanimously to force her to resign, because she could be a negative influence for the kids,” Seguin said.

Director of Corporate Communications for media and Internet company InterActiveCorp, Justine Sacco was preparing to board a plane bound for Africa in 2013 when she tweeted, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” Seguin said. When Sacco reached Cape Town, “she was fired before the plane landed,” he said.

Seguin highlighted these examples to encourage people to think before posting anything on social media. Almost all — 96 percent — of American residents age 18-35 use social media.

That generation has “no fear of social media,” Seguin said. “They have no idea they are putting themselves at risk.”

Doug Kelley, independent agent for LegalShield, said a woman employee of a company lost her job after taking a selfie and posting it to Facebook. She was not drinking or acting in a negative fashion; she was just smiling at the camera/phone. She was fired because the photo was taken with sensitive company information posted on the wall in the background.

“It’s just a matter of time before it happens to you,” Kelley said of identity theft.

Medical, job search

Medical identity theft is the fastest-growing identity theft, Kelly said.

For example, someone may steal an identity for medical benefits because that person has cancer or AIDS and is not covered by insurance.

“If you’re the person whose identity was stolen, good luck getting insurance from now on,” Kelley said.

“We are at a time now where you need to change your thinking about the digital you,” Seguin said. “We need to have no sense of privacy on the Internet. Anything on the Internet [including Snapchat, Twitter, Messaging, emails and texts] can be used in court.

“Nothing ever gets [fully] deleted,” he said.

Ninety percent of job recruiters use social media as a screening tool, 69 percent reported they have rejected candidates as a result and 68 percent hired candidates based on what they found on social media sites.

Two other tenets of Seguin’s advice: change behavior; and manage the risks of Internet exposure.