ITRC Fact Sheet 127 - Blog Sense
Recently, online blogs have become a popular way for people to meet each other and to share like interests. However, not everybody uses blogs with good intentions. It is important to remember this and to stay safe online.
Do you know how to stay safe on a Blog site? Follow Mike and Rachelle as they set up their accounts and interact with others online. Pick your answers and read your score to see if you are safe on blog sites.
- Mike has decided to join the blog site that all his friends are on. As he is filling out his profile it asks him what name he wants displayed. Mike wants his friends to know that it’s him…but he isn’t sure what to put. What should he enter?
A. His Full Name (Michael James Henderson)
B. His first name (Michael or Mike)
C. School nickname (Mikey)
D. A cool online handle
- Mike continues to fill out his profile, listing his favorite movies and bands. He even lists his hobbies and after school activities. He has the option of listing the name of his school. Should he?
A. Sure, he wants people to know right
B. Leave it blank. His friends know his school
C. Hmm…just the name, but not the city. That’s not important.
- Rachelle likes to post pictures of everything on her blog. Her trip to Disneyland, pictures from the Homecoming Dance, the football game she went to last week. Everything. After coming back from a party where she had her friends pass around her camera she finds that there are some pictures of her friends (who are underage) drinking alcohol and making out with some college students that were there. She knows her friends are eager to see how the pictures came out. Should she post them on her blog?
A. Of course. Why not? They were all just having fun. It was a party after all
B. Well….some of the pictures, but not the ones with the drinking or making out.
C. Only the really funny/ embarrassing pictures. Her friends will love it.
- The next day she gets a message from a guy named Andy. Andy says that he had some friends that went to that party and points them out in some of the pictures she posted. She doesn’t know the particular guys he points out but that’s ok because there were a lot of people there she didn’t know. Andy asks her if she would like to hang out sometime, like maybe go to a movie or something. The picture on his profile looks really cute and they do seem to have a lot in common. Should she go?
A. A cute boy like that, alone in a theater. Why not?
B. How about she meet him at the mall with some of her friends. Maybe
some of them would remember his friends.
C. Better yet, why doesn’t he come over on Friday. Her parents will be gone.
D. How about we chat for a while first and get acquainted? Then talk about meeting.
- Mike’s been chatting with Jeff for a while now. They both like to do the same things and Mike has even hung out with Jeff several times with his friends. Mike is having a birthday party at his house and he’d like to invite Jeff. But when he does, Jeff asks if he can bring along some of his friends for Mike to meet. What should Mike say?
A. Not this time, but he’d like to meet them later
B. Sure, the more the merrier.
C. On second thought, let’s have the party at the nearby Pizza Shack.
- Rachelle has been conversing with Cindy for a few months now. They get along really well even though Cindy lives two states away. They talk all the time about everything they are up to. Rachelle’s birthday is coming up soon. Cindy would like to send Rachelle a birthday present. Should Rachelle give Cindy her address?
A. Why not? She can trust Cindy, what’s she going to do?
B. Well, she thinks she can trust her but just to be safe she should give Cindy her father’s
C. Ask Cindy if she can send a gift certificate via e-mail.
- Mike has started an online, long distance relationship with Leslie. Though she lives several states away he really likes her. They are even planning on attending the same college together once they graduate. They talk on the phone all the time and share almost everything. One day Leslie calls him up very upset. She says that she wants to apply for a job but doesn’t know her social security number and won’t say why her parents won’t give it to her. She asks Mike if she can use his number, just this once to get the job. Should he give it to her?
A. Of course! He knows he can trust her, and it’s just this once.
B. No but he does direct her to the Social Security Administration’s website
so she can order her social security card.
- A. -3 B. -1 C. +1 D. +3 You should never make your full name public. Even your first name is questionable. A nickname is fine and a handle is even better. This way, nobody knows who you really are unless you specifically want them to. Besides, your personal friends already know who you are so you don’t need to post too much on your site. Other things you should never post publicly. Your address, phone number, drivers license number, social security number, student ID number and even your home town. Thieves can figure out your social security number by what town you were born in and what year. It’s ok to post what year or how old you are, but with this info combined with where you were born, they are able to figure out your SSN.
- A. -1 B. +2 C. +1 You can put what school you attend, as long as you are not using your real name online. If somebody comes across your account for illegal purposes, using your name and what school you attended they could then pretend to be a parent or grandparent of yours, and dupe the school into giving them your address and social security number. If you do put your school down, don’t put in what classes you are attending. This may help a potential thief figure out who you are and get your information.
- A.-3 B.+3 C.-3 The fun of blogs is to share things with friends. But remember. Others can see the things you post too. Pictures depicting adult conduct (such as various sex acts) or substance abuse (such as drinking or drug related activities) may attract unwanted attention. Certain online predators will target people they know they can reach while under the influence of a substance or that they believe will be easy to coax into a sex act based on the photos and any dialog you post. As well, many blog sites work hand in hand with law enforcement and will turn you in for promoting illegal activity on their site. They will also use the pictures you posted to not only prosecute you but everybody involved in any illegal activity. A good way to decide if what you are posting is appropriate to post is ask yourself first, “What would my parents say if they found this?”
- A. -3 B. +3 C. -3 D. +3 Ok, let’s face it. Most people join blog sites to meet people. And most of the time you meet people who are ok. But there are those people who join blogs to get people to give them their personal information or to try to cause them physical harm. If you do meet somebody in person, meet them in a public place. Malls, restaurants with good parking lot lighting, and coffee shops are great public places to meet people. Ask one of your friends to come along so that you are not going alone. Make sure the place is at least 10 miles from your house and never tell them where you live or any personal information. Don’t let them walk you to your car. They may take down your license plate number or follow you home once they know what car you drive. Always let your parents know where you are going and when you will be back. Don’t go to their house until you are sure you can trust them. You don’t know them very well and you don’t know anybody they may be living with. It is always ok to tell somebody that you don’t care to meet. Use your best judgment.
- A. +3 B. -3 C. +3 Just because you meet one cool person online doesn’t mean that they are all cool. It is a common occurrence for somebody to have a party and invite an online friend over. That friend brings some of their friends. Now, the online friend maybe trustworthy but their friends are not and they may steal things while at the party, or look around for things to come back and steal later. Always meet people away from the house in a neutral environment, and use your best judgment. Remember not everybody is trustworthy.
- A. -3 B. +1 C. +3 Most people online are probably ok, but you still have to look out for those few who are not altogether sane and may become a stalkers or wish to cause you harm. This is especially true for anybody looking for a relationship online. Stalkers and thieves hunt specifically for people who are open, trusting and looking for a relationship. They will work hard to gain your trust and find out everything about you. Use discretion and your best judgment. Pay careful attention to what you post publicly on your blog. Photos depicting adult content and talking about engaging in mature conduct could attract these types of people to your profile. A good way to determine if you are posting something that may put you in danger is to decide if it is something you would want your parents to find on your blog. If it’s not, don’t post it.
- A. -3 B. +3 Never, Never, Ever give your personal information to anybody. This includes your friends from school. Credit cards, bank cards, social security numbers, medical cards and driver’s licenses are for your use only and nobody else’s. Don’t even give out video rental cards or library cards because they contain vital information that a thief could use. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve known the person or that you “know” you can trust them.
Now add up your score to see how you did.
-19 to -10 Poor: Your practices online are not safe and you are putting yourself at risk of being taken advantage of. These people are professionals. They will do and say anything to gain your trust. Use caution when online.
-9 to 0 OK: You know a little about online safety but your skills need a lot of improvement. Some of your practices could leave you open to thieves and predators. Always err on the side of caution.
1 to 9 Good: You know the basics and are relatively safe online, however, some of your skills need to be improved somewhat. Use caution and your best judgment on what to post and not to post as well as who you would like to meet in person in the future.
10 to 20 Great: Your practices are good and you take all precautions to stay safe on line. Keep it up and have fun.
How Safe is your Blog?
One of the most important things to remember when using a blog site is don’t give away too much
information about yourself. You never know who may be looking at your profile or what they want to do with that information. Look at this check list to see if your blog is safe.
Is your full name viewable? (first and last) Y N
Is what school you attend and what city viewable? Y N
Is the city/zip code you live in viewable? Y N
Are there any visible clues or directions to your house? Y N
Is the name/location of your job viewable? Y N
Is how much money you or your family makes viewable? Y N
Is your personal e-mail viewable? Y N
Is your driver’s license or number viewable? Y N
Is your social security number viewable? Y N
Is your phone number visible? Y N
Are there any links visible that would contain any personal information? Y N
Any information on where you are going to be at any given time? Y N
Do you have a picture or scan of your school ID card posted? Y N
Is your student ID number viewable? Y N
If you answered “Yes” to more than one of these questions then your blog is not safe. You are giving out private information that somebody could use to steal your identity if not find out where you live.
True story. A girl in 2005 was chatting with a guy she thought was 19. Turned out he was 35. Using the information on her blog (full name, city/zip code, and job name/location) he figured out where she worked and in talking to her fellow employees got her schedule. He then waited for her to arrive for work, kidnapped her, molested her, and left her in a ditch.
If a thief knows your e-mail account they could find out your real name and anything else you may have posted on your e-mail provider’s profile of you, including your address and phone number.
Posting how much money you or your family makes (even if you made up the amount) can attract predators who will do and say anything to get information on you because they know that you have money. And predators can use your full name and what school you attended to find out your SSN.
What’s a Social Security Number?
Your Social Security Number (SSN) is the number the government uses to identify you specifically from everybody else. Since there are a million John Smiths in the country, there can only be one with that specific social security number.
Thieves use people’s SSNs to obtain driver’s licenses, bank loans, credit cards, and obtain work. They can even give your information over to the police as their own when they get arrested. In these cases, the thief’s background remains clean, but you now have an arrest record.
True story: A high school student went to work at his first job. When it was time for him to receive his paycheck he found that all of his wages had been garnished. Somebody had stolen his SSN and the IRS was now garnishing this kid’s wages for the thief’s child support payments.
Never give away your social security number. Not to anybody.
Some thieves go through the trouble of figuring out your SSN by the information available to them. The 1st three numbers are a geographic location, two mid numbers are batch numbers, and the last 4 numbers are your personal PIN. So all a thief needs to know is what your home town is and what year you were born in. With this they can hop onto the Social Security Administration’s website and find out the first 5 numbers. Then, if your school uses the last 4 digits of your SSN as your school ID number, a thief can call up pretending to be a relative and get those numbers. Now they have your entire SSN. From this they can order birth certificates, driver’s licenses, passports, etc. There have even been cases of the thief ordering genealogy reports on a victim so that they can answer questions a bank may ask like “Your mother’s maiden name” in order to open bank loans.
This fact sheet should not be used in lieu of legal advice. Any requests to reproduce this material, other than by individual victims for their own use, should be directed to ITRC .
Copyright 2009. Identity Theft Resource Center®, all rights reserved. Created by the ITRC Staff