In this fast-paced, digital age, everyone is connected. With the click of a mouse, you can find out almost anything you ever wanted to know about someone. Unfortunately, that makes it very easy for someone to gain access to personal information that you wouldn’t want anyone to see. And you might be unintentionally practicing behavior that makes you an easy target. But don’t feel bad; I’ve done some of these things myself. I’ll give you a list of three common mistakes that might be putting your privacy–and your safety–at risk.
1.Â Using your home address for subscriptions. Some publications sell your home address to third-party marketers. And these addresses often get into the hands of people who run Websites that specialize in providing sensitive contact information. US Search is one of these sites. For as little as $1.95, anyone can go to this site and obtain your age, current address, all of your previous addresses, telephone number, and the names of your family members. They charge a fee of $10 to remove your information from their database. Instead of using your home address on subscriptions, rent a mailbox at a post office and use that address.
2. Not reading bank and credit card notices. Banks and credit card companies often mail out privacy notices. If you get one, don’t throw it away. Open it and read it carefully. These notices might contain information that could affect you and your family. I’m sure you already have too much personal information floating around out there. For example, last year, I received a notice from my bank asking if I wanted to opt out of its third-party marketing list. I immediately called and opted out.
3. Putting too much information on social media sites. Facebook and LinkedIn are a great source for networking, but you shouldn’t reveal every personal detail about yourself. Take advantage of the privacy settings made available to you. For example, Facebook allows you to share personal information–such as your phone number–with your network of friends while blocking it from public view. Another tip: Don’t post your geographic location or your full address on your profile. This just makes it easier for you to be found by people you might not want contact with. You’d be amazed at the information people just give away. And, yes, I have seen someone post their full home address in a Facebook profile.
Be careful and guard your information with your life. Once you give your privacy away, it’s hard to get it back.
Sheiresa Ngo is the Consumer Affairs editor at Black Enterprise.