Dangers of Posting Personal Images Online
That Dreaded Call
People like to share things online especially now in the age of social networking. Sometimes posting too much information about yourself or your children can be dangerous.
Whenever there's a problem, I usually hear about it on my phone. Today was no exception. When the caller explained that she was a Sergeant from the Sheriff's Department Burglary and Theft Division, I was immediately concerned.
The officer asked me to confirm a number on an active, state issued license I've held for a number of years. The number sounded quite familiar but I checked my files to be sure. When I asked why the question came up, the officer explained that someone had used my license to create a fake license for themselves. I remembered exactly where the image had been posted. Immediately, I began to worry what else I may have shared that now I wish I hadn't.
Who is Looking?
The officer asked me to confirm my address and to provide my date of birth. By this time, considering the information she'd told me earlier, I was already in a state of high alert. I asked why she needed to know my birth date.
"In order to file a criminal case with the District Attorney," she answered.
I asked her to have patience with my fresh reluctance to give out that information, having just been enlightened to the identity theft of my license. She understood completely and offered to give me the main number to the Police so I could call her back and confirm that she was who she claimed to be.
We hung up and I dialed the number she gave me. Someone answered the phone, "Financial Crimes Division". When I asked for the officer whose name I'd been given, I was immediately connected and I recognized her voice
The officer asked if I would be willing to pursue criminal charges against the person in question. I hesitated for a moment before I reluctantly agreed. She said the case would be filed with the District Attorney who will probably follow up and ask me for additional information.
Later, I began to question the fact that I gave out my date of birth to some stranger on the phone and I began to panic. I looked up the number for the Police Department online. This gave me more reason to be concerned. It wasn't the number I'd been given.
Original Birth Certificate
The website that came up as a result of typing in the phone number pinpointed a location in Houston. But when I read further under the Google Search, I saw the name of a foreign country associated with the number. This made me really nervous.
Looking up the main number for the area police, I came across a wide variety of departments dealing with different crimes including homicide. Eventually, I found a link to the main number and got through to a helpful person named Courtney, who said they had no such officer in their list of that division. My heart rate began to accelerate as I explained my situation.
She told me that their case numbers were quite different from the one I'd been given by the first caller who said she was an officer. As I explained the conversation we'd had, Courtney realized that it was a different division that had called me. She gave me another number that would connect me with the main line for the proper agency.
Tip of the Week about Photos Taken with Phones
After a few minutes of being on hold with that number, a voice mail recording played. How is it even possible for a call to go to a recording when you call the police? I frantically dialed a different number on the website as I furiously searched to find the right department.
Eventually, I was connected and found out they do have a Sergeant with the same name as the original officer who first called me. The receptionist wanted to connect me immediately, but I begged her to answer some questions before she transferred the call.
Think Before You Post
The officer was the one to whom I'd initially spoken. After apologizing profusely, I told her that at this point I was getting extremely paranoid about having given out my personal information in addition to the photo that started the whole episode.
She reassured me that she was legitimate and understood my concern. She advised me to be alert and check my credit report to confirm that no suspicious activity had transpired. I was told that this person who took my license number without my permission and used it in a false manner had tampered with a Government document and that this is most certainly a crime.
Google Images Saves Your Photo
At this point, I'm very concerned by some of the postings I've seen on Facebook and other social media sites, where family members have shared personal information unwittingly, that can be used in a nefarious manner. I've seen pictures of children's report cards, including their teacher's names, their school name and even the exact birthdays of the children.
The phone call today has awakened me to the negative aspects of posting too much information on line. It was truly a wake up call for me.
Post Photos that Don't Reveal Too Much Info
Have you had your copyrighted material or photos stolen?
Several months ago, I wrote a hub about the penalties of performing services without having a proper license. To illustrate the article, I added a picture of my license. That was obviously a bad move, of course, hindsight is always equipped with twenty-twenty vision.
I searched for the image on Google and located it immediately, along with a dozen or so other people who, proud of their accomplishment of having finished the curriculum, had posted their images also. I sent an email to the Hub Team who assisted me in removing the image from the Google cache since they were the actual hosting site.
Similar to when you buy a new car, you start seeing more of that model on the road than ever before. At this point, I'm noticing a lot of postings where people have proudly shared their personal information, like I did, without a concern about how this might be used to our disadvantage.
A word to the wise is usually sufficient. If I may be so bold, I caution each writer out there, whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Blogspot, PersonaPaper or whatever sites you frequent, use caution when it comes to your images.
The photo you post may be used against you or to replace you or quite possibly, to stalk you.
What you send out to the Internet is available for all sorts of people to look at including your family, friends and even thieves.
I've learned my lesson and will be extremely careful from this point forward not to post anything that might possibly be used improperly without my permission.
I hope this situation doesn't happen to you.
© 2015 Peg Cole