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VOL. 129 | NO. 119 | Thursday, June 19, 2014

Dana and Ray Brandon

Identity Theft and Social Media

By Ray and Dana Brandon

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Ray’s take: You just logged into your online banking and your account is empty. You go to apply for a loan and are told you don’t qualify due to overextended credit. You file your tax return only to discover it has already been filed and your refund check issued and cashed. These are some of the very real things that have happened due to identity theft.

According to a State-of-the-Net survey by Consumer Reports, if your identity is stolen, it can take 30 hours or more of your time and hundreds of dollars to restore your good name and good credit.

If you are wondering how susceptible you may be to having your identity stolen, ask yourself these questions. How careful are you about storing your PIN numbers and passwords? Do you have security on our computer, such as a firewall or encrypted passwords, to keep from being hacked? Are you a member of one or more social media websites?

Be careful what information you post on your social media sites. While it is probably not enough alone for identity theft, in combination with other available information, identity thieves can piece together everything they need to get what they want.

The ease with which we publicize seemingly harmless bits of personal information online and off is often what scam artists rely upon. You’ve spent so much time working out your financial future. Don’t let all your plans be compromised. Be aware of the potential risks associated with being too forthcoming on a public site.

Dana’s take: Social media presents a dilemma in that we want to make ourselves look good, but in the process we may overshare, risking our assets. It's hard to resist sharing that photo on the beach with your toes in the sand and your tanned children splashing in the waves. Unfortunately, someone suffering from vacation envy may "Like" your patio furniture, Jeep and boat while you're posing for your next selfie at the tiki bar.

There is a function on your cellphone that allows it to post your current location to your social accounts. Check the privacy settings on your accounts and make sure they are as high as possible.

“Checking in” is another option available for Facebook. It lets everyone know where you are at a given moment and where you’ve been. We all like for others to know when we’re at a really cool place, right? But for someone hacking your account, this lets them know you are not at home.

Look over your Facebook and Twitter photos and posts. Are you sharing information that could lead a jealous viewer wanting to "share" in your good fortune?

Ray Brandon is a certified financial planner and CEO of Brandon Financial Planning (www.brandonplanning.com). His wife, Dana, has a bachelor’s degree in finance and is a licensed clinical social worker. Contact Ray Brandon at raybrandon@brandonplanning.com.

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MORTGAGES 104 424 4,814
BUILDING PERMITS 148 883 10,151
BANKRUPTCIES 53 264 3,149