Social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are great for keeping tabs on your friends and letting them know what's going on in your life. But (not to sound too paranoid) you have to remember who might be watching you (ahem, Big Brother).
Here's a list of the unwelcome voyeurs to be aware of:
1. Debt collectors
If you've been dodging a creditor's calls, snail mail, e-mail and home visits, you might want to stop posting your location on Twitter or Facebook. We're not suggesting that you skip out on paying your bills, but you might not want a debt collector coming to your Aunt Sandy's birthday party because you posted the time, date and exact location on your wall. It's not only private debt collectors who use Facebook to locate you, Uncle Sam is getting in on the act. According to The Wall Street Journal, state revenue agents have begun using social networking sites to track down tax evaders.
The Federal Trade Commission estimates that identity theft affects about 9 million Americans each year. Even though you're not posting your Social Security number on your profile, you're giving identity thieves an incredible amount of info that could be used to destroy your credit history and your credibility.
It's not only identity thieves you need to look out for: A recent study by Legal & General found that 38% of social network users post their vacation plans on their profile. Considering that many users have pages that are completely open to public viewing, thieves are making appointments with empty houses via Facebook.
The Better Business Bureau identified several schemes and scams that have made their way onto Facebook and MySpace such as the good old viral wall post. This hack targets those of us who are especially careful about who can see or access our information, making it even more malicious than other hacks. It works like this: a "friend" posts on your wall to let you know that some of your pictures are up on a random Web site. You, wanting your info on lockdown, click the link to the site and, in effect, give the hacker access to your account and allow them to post the same message on the walls of all of your friends. Not only does this cost you, but it could cost others as well.
If you like this story, check out From Facebook To Famous: Do It Yourself Stardom.