Cyberstalking And ID Theft Part 1
Cyberstalking and identity theft. One might wonder what these two things have in common, well, it isn't a big leap for the stalker to not only only harass and abuse his/her victim but jump to stealing his victims identity too.
In this article I want to talk about this new age crime. Stalking isn't new and neither is identity theft. They have just become one bigger combination through internet criminals.
I'm not new to either one. I've been through both offline and online stalking and harassment as well as identity theft. Identity theft for me started with a neighbor. Later it continued when an ex boyfriend posted my personal information on internet discussion boards. You can read my story at http://life501.blogspot.com/2012/12/craigslist-and-cyberstalking.html
It's hard enough to overcome stalking but add to that identity theft as well and you will have an even longer, harder time of getting your credit back and if you're like me you never truly will. Eventually, you will discover if you want any type of credit you will be doing it illegally. I won't go into any of that.
Unfortunately, once someone gets your social security number it's virtually impossible to stop them from abusing it. They can use it like they have with mine or they can post it online as mine has been. Despite repeated requests from the discussion board to take down my personal information(including my SSN) they still haven't. Despite desperately trying to clean it up with the credit reporting bureaus, that too has failed.
Once someone gets it there's no way to halt the abuse. The social security administration can't issue a new SSN because someone is using yours illegally. It isn't like being able to get a new phone number if someone keeps calling.
Because of that, there are steps you might want to take to prevent not only becoming a target of cyberstalking but identity theft. Social media sites like facebook offer criminals a plethora of people they can harass and/or steal information from. There's nothing wrong with using these sites but exercising a little common sense goes a long way. It's best if you have your profile set to private and only accept friend requests from people you know. That way you weed out people you don't know that might be up to no good. But remember, some of your personal information can still make it onto the search engines and other sites because like all businesses these days the social media sites sell your information as does your credit card companies, banks, etc.
Don't communicate with people you don't know. Don't give someone you don't know any information about yourself. And certainly don't give out addresses, phone numbers etc. Phone numbers can often be traced back to a physical address. If you must give out a number to someone you don't know which is increasingly more common these days, give out a cell number. But remember, a smart thief/stalker can still net a physical address from that. Not necessarily from the internet(I've yet to find an address for me from my cell number) but calling the cell phone provider directly(that information can be found at certain online sites by simply plugging in the number) and remember a smart criminal already has enough information to pass as you at the cell phone company. For this reason, I recommend having a passcode(one that only you know, made up and memorized is best) and I also recommend having your bills go to a post office box in case that smart criminal is able to con his way to an address. If that happens he will only have your PO Box which is of no help. The mobile company only needs a mailing address so they can send your bills. I recommend you use a post office box for all of your mail except for maybe catalogs, travel brochures and magazines and that's only because once you get on a mailing list the junk mail will fly in. This doesn't mean you can't use an alias or a variation of your name or even your dead grandmother's name. There is no law against this unless you are doing it to get out of paying a bill or for some other illegal purpose.
You may find some of what I suggest against your moral code but remember if you're going to put your name out there on social media sites, message boards, blogs, etc. you are putting yourself at higher risk for not only a stalker but an identity thief as well. You could end up the target of both. It only takes one comment, post, etc. that someone finds offensive to wage an all out war. It happens all the time.
We may live in a country where we are free to exercise this right but there are people out there, people who are not stable, that can and do take offense to what people have to say every single day and take that as a cue to harass, stalk and steal from them and sometimes all because the victim made one small comment that he/she didn't think could possibly offend anyone.
For this reason, I recommend using caution when making comments especially on topics that can become hotbeds for debate. I don't recommend using your full name on message boards. If you have a blog you can post under a pseudonym or just a username to protect your identity. As I've said before in other articles I don't recommend putting your pictures out there and especially not pictures of your children. Even if your profile is set to private search engines still cache the photographs and they will show up in search when someone searches for you. Your friends can share your photographs giving them an even bigger reach. And in some cases your information such as what you're doing, where you're going, etc. can show up in other places. Also be aware that everything you post is not just on your profile that you have set to private but on your friends profiles as well and many of them may not be private and if a potential stalker/thief can't get to you by befriending you he can always befriend one of your friends and some of them may not be as discerning as you are when it comes to accepting friend requests.
If you're truly concerned about privacy on the internet my advice is to stay off the social networking sites, blog sites, etc.. You can also use an alias on a social profile but you still run the risk that a stalker can find out your real name through one of your friends.
Now if you use social media sites, blogs, a website, auction sites, writing sites, etc. to market yourself, your business and/or your skills you know how important it is to actively use networking sites and how important it is for your name to be attached to it. You also know that privatizing your social profiles is not advantageous to your marketing plan.
Unfortunately, this can put you at far greater risk of a stalker/thief.
Remember, if your business is not internet based there is no need to market yourself, your blogs, your writing, your auction listings, etc. You can protect your privacy by implementing many of the points I've outlined here.
In the next article I will go into protecting your privacy if you use the internet to market your business, blogs, writing, etc. And also how you can be traced and tracked even without a name and how someone can find your name.
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