Imagine asking a person walking on the street their name and date of birth. Few, if any would ever give it, voluntarily. Now imagine doing the same online. You don’t even need to ask! The internet/social media phenomenon has allowed people to share their most intimate details very easy. It seems the risks are real low when you are all alone on your computer late at night, sharing details with a few close friends online. It’s not the case. Once you share any information online, consider it permanent. Websites store the data permanently. Even if you come back and delete your complete profile on a website, they will continue to keep all the data posted by you indefinitely. This is the way they sell advertisement, by selling information, your information. Granted you cannot completely forsake this, there are some simple steps which can drastically reduce the chances that your information falls into wrong hands.
Website Registration: Ever notice why more and more websites ask you to register! It’s simple. This is the easiest way to ask an unsuspecting user to share his/her information. Try to register to as few websites as possible. Think whether you really need to join another social network or game company website! Of course there are exceptions such as banking, insurance, etc. which make our lives easier.
Date of Birth: This is a no brainer. But you would be amazed how many people give their original date of birth consistently to all the websites they register on. Never reveal your real date of birth. Most users do not know that there is no requirement to give your real data of birth in any website. This information is voluntary! Skip the date of birth completely. If it is compulsory, then choose another date close to your actual date of birth and use it online for everything. Now even if your information is stolen, it cannot be used for identity theft.
Actual Name: Avoid using your real name. Websites will accept any name. They have no way of checking your real name. Use this tip on emails too. If you really want your email to have a connection to your name, change it a bit. Like Christopher becomes Chris or Samuel Jonathan Bailey becomes SamJ or JonB. Having the full name in an email id is not compulsory. Also skip other personal information. If you do plan to provide any information, modify it so that it cannot be traced to you and make sure you store that information offline somewhere. In case you forget your userid/password you will need the information you used to register.
Caveat: You may need to give actual details on Banking websites, Insurance websites, Brokerage accounts. These are useful on a day to day basis and need not be faked. These websites have much higher protections than all the social networks coming up these days.
Unique Passwords: Create unique passwords for all websites. We all know how tedious it is to memorize unique passwords for multiple websites! So what do we do? We change all of them to the same! This is not a good idea. A hacker who gains access to your userid/password for one account is bound to try it at other places. Safe guard your interests by having different userid/passwords for different accounts.