Echoing the latest topics in the newspaper, my mother recently remarked how unsettling it was that anyone (criminals included) could see your house on the internet (using Google Maps, Street View). I then “Googled” her name to show her what the layperson could find out about her on-line. She was surprised to see the information and even some pictures of herself, as a child that one of her sisters had posted. I told her that bad people were more likely to use a computer to steal her identity rather than rob her house.
As smug as I was about pointing out how little my parents knew about the cybercrime, I am sure that they have done a far better job of managing their cyber-identity than I have. They have never done any on-line banking, and usually use the house phone to call websites to place orders. Receipts of checks and financial statements are shredded and even address labels are removed from envelops before going in the trash. My parents do not have smart phones and only recently have learned to text. As old-fashioned as it seems, it has made their cyberfoot prints nearly non-existent and reduced their exposure to cybercriminals.
Are my parents 100% safe from identity theft? Not completely. Nevertheless, what they have done is avoid storing their personal financial data on an unprotected computer. The avoidance of storing personal data on one’s computer is one of the ways to protect your identity at school, as stated by Todd Feinman’s article in USA Today (“Protect your cyberidentity”, Aug 31, 2009). There are numerous articles, from industry experts, that echo the idea of protecting our personal data. Despite the ability of many applications to store personal information, we should adhere to the idea that we should make sure our information is protected on-line.
Although I do not see myself pulling away from the conveniences of using the internet, my parents have taught me to slow down and consider my vulnerabilities to identity theft. What seems like a perfectly safe and convenient way to do my banking and on-line purchases now deserves a little more scrutiny. You can never be too careful. Some words that my parents can be proud to hear me say!
Other ways to protect your identity at school can be found at: