- Aw, come on, do I have to? – No, you don’t. Most companies do not need everything they ask for. The mandatory items are usually marked with an asterisk, so fill those out ONLY. And don’t be afraid to fake it, they’ll never know the difference and you’ll be safer. Never give personal information to companies that you don’t absolutely have to.
- Age of Aquarius- An exception to this rule is the year you were born. While you can fake the month and day of your birthday, many companies use the year of your birth to allow access to certain services, and they are often required to do this by law. For this reason, it’s best to go ahead and put in your correct birth year when signing up.
- Sealed with an https – Only send valued personal details to a website that is secure. The link (URL) to a secure website begins https://. If the site doesn’t say that, then don’t send them any sensitive information.
- I solemnly swear that I’m up to no good - Verify the security certificate used by a secure website. It won’t do any good to trust a website if their security is expired or outdated. Yes, this does happen, even with big companies, so check it out. Some web browsers do this for you automatically- read the warning boxes and steer clear.
- I seem to have lost my phone number, can I borrow yours? – Check that there is a physical address for contact – this may help if there is a dispute. If there isn’t any way to contact them, then stay away. What business doesn’t want to hear from customers? That’s right, a BAD business. Find somewhere else.
- Swear you won’t tell anyone? – If there is a website privacy notice, check how the website uses and shares information about you. You know- that fine print you check off without actually reading. Yeah, take a look one day and see what you find. You’d be shocked with the privacy you are waving by clicking ‘continue’.
- Pinky promise? – Only share personal information with websites you know you can trust. So, you’ve done numbers 3-6 and you feel okay about the site. Think one more time before you click. Do you trust the site? Is there a Better Business Bureau tag on it? Do your friends and co-workers use it? Still okay… then, by all means, continue.
- But why? – Because I said so is not a valid reason. Always think about who you are giving information to and why they would need it. Don’t be afraid to ask. This applies even to sites you trust. Why would you want to give your hairstylist your social security number? You trust them with your hair, but not that. Why is it any different online?
- You’re special – Ah, the government. A whole other ball of wax- you can’t fudge on their forms. Make sure that your computer is secure and then start cutting through the red tape. Any time you are on a government website the URL should end with “.gov”. Make sure the site is real before you input any information. And good luck, you’re going to need it.
- Don’t take data from strangers – When dealing with computer systems that aren’t your own, never handle data or documents that you wouldn’t want left behind unprotected. Why? Because some systems record everything you do- from credit card numbers to addresses. Don’t take the chance.
Think of the internet this way- you’re in a singles bar and everyone wants to hang out with you. How do you decide who gets your number and who gets the boot? Be even more selective online. Don’t talk to strangers- especially strange ones. If your friend introduces you, still take the time to check them out. And whatever you do, don’t talk about yourself too much; you know what a turn-off that is!
Article originally published on September 6, 2011 on ISP, reposted with permission. By Christine Kane.