March 2, 2013

These days, it’s hard to live without the internet. It is essential in our daily lives, and is a great tool for making life and communication more efficient.  As many are learning the hard way, however, the internet can be a major violation of privacy.  Sometimes what goes on the web, is hard to get off. International investigators and privacy experts, as well as certain law enforcement agencies, are trying to educate the public on how to be safer on the internet.  Essentially, the less about you on the internet, the safer you are.  Here are some tips on how to stay safe online.

When you are connected to the internet, there is always the risk of your data and information falling into the wrong hands.  Even if your personal data is safe on your bank’s computer system, that doesn’t mean that a hacker won’t eventually have access.  Hacking and internet crime risk is growing by the day, and cases of identity theft are soaring.  But, private investigators say hacking, phishing emails, spam, viruses, and identity theft may only be a fraction of the actual crime taking place by sharing too much online.  Investigators and law enforcement report that much more serious crime, such as harassment, stalking, assault, robbery, rape and even homicide can also originate online.  Criminals use the internet as a valuable tool in their research, and the less they can find about you online, the better.  Keep your personal data safe and protected.
  1. Turn off your computer when you’re not using it.  Staying connected to the internet when you’re not using it increases your chances of being a victim.  Hackers and viruses scan the network for available computers all the time, so limited your exposure.
  2. Increase your security settings and get security software that protects you from spam, viruses, pop-ups, and other malware.  Consider AVG or Norton virus protection.  Privacy software such as Abine’s do not track plus can also help you stay anonymous.  Clear your cookies on a normal basis and check your web browser settings for privacy protection. Be careful about suspicious emails and never click on strange links in emails.
  3. Think twice before posting information to the internet.  Chances are, if you decide to take down the information in the future, it may not be possible.  Share less, and understand what you post or share online can easily end up in the wrong hands. 
  4. Check Google Maps for a street view of your house.  Email and call Google to have your home removed to protect and respect the privacy of you and your family.  If Google doesn’t cooperate, write your congressman and senator and your Attorney General.
  5. When doing business online, look for privacy and trust seals like Truste, McAfee and the Better Business Bureau.  Check to see if the payment page is secure with SSL and lock.  Never submit payment or personal data to any site that isn’t an https page.
  6. NEVER share date of birth, home address, SSN, passport number, bank account information or other personal data to anyone on the internet.  Sharing this information is a fast way to be a victim of identity theft or other more serious crime.
  7. Search Google and Facebook for your name and see what information you can find on yourself.  If you see anything that could put you at risk, work to get it removed.
  8. Consider services like to help you remove your data from the internet.
  9. If you’ve met someone via the internet, or are considering doing business with a company you found online, consider a background check investigation to minimize your risk.
  10. Check your contact lists in Twitter, Facebook and other sites to be sure all your “friends” and followers are people you can trust, and should be sharing your information with.  Keep your profiles private and only visible to those who you are connected.
The issue of privacy is getting more serious by the day.  Criminals can now search Google and sites like MyLife for your name and find your address, a photo of your home, and even find a photo of your vehicle in your driveway.  If you share a lot of information online, criminals can then find out where you work, where you live, your schedule, your date of birth, how much you paid for your home, what kind of car you drive, if you are married or single, and much more!  The result, you are the perfect victim.  Soon Google glasses will even be able to recognize your face and essentially put you under surveillance without your knowledge or consent.  Consumers need to fight back and demand privacy from companies like Google who track and profit from your data.

All the best,

S. Birch
© 2013 S. Birch

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This copyrighted article was written and published by the editor and site author, S. Birch, or other guest private investigator, expert or contributor as stated.