Protect Your Online Information

Yesterday morning I woke up leisurely at 9 a.m. and did my usual routine of checking my iPhone for emails, text messages and other notifications. I saw a voicemail notification and two missed calls from an unknown number. I went ahead and pressed the play button to listen to the message. What I heard snapped me out of my Sunday morning comfort zone and caused anxiety and fear to enter my mind.

A female voice said she is from “Cheating Anonymous” and that someone put out a request to have me followed. She said she uncovered some information my fiance would not want to know about. She said that I “should be on the look out for whatever you have been doing” and that they found out I have braces. She found it odd that another man would be interested in me because of that. She said to “cool down a little bit” and that my fiance is aware. She advised me to take it in and gain something from her message. At the end it sounded a little like she was either holding in laughter or tears, it’s hard to tell because her voice got shaky and she abruptly hung-up. The call came in at 1:58 a.m.

I immediately got out of bed and yelled out for Kyle. “Kyle! Kyle! I got a scary message on my phone! Listen!” He sat in the living room playing a video game as I shakily handed him my phone.

I played the message for him and he looked very confused. He had no clue why I would receive this message. He hugged me and told me not to worry about it and that it was probably a prank call. His words were kind and loving but I felt insecure and scared still. I quickly looked up the phone number to the local police department. The dispatcher sent out a police officer to my home. While I waited for the police officer to arrive I thought about how someone could access my information. It took just a few seconds for my brain to make the connection: Social Media.

Source: someecards.com

Anyone can log onto Facebook and see my image (with braces) and that I am engaged. They could also access this blog where I freely divulge information about my personal life to anyone that cares to read. I also have accounts on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Get Glue, Four Square, Klout, LinkedIn and a deactivated Myspace account. In addition my contact information is displayed on my Avon webstore. The only place I could think that a stranger can access my phone number is the Avon site. Just to be safe, I went on Facebook and discovered I left my phone number displayed publicly. I must have input that information years ago when I first created the account and never bothered to safeguard that information. I removed my phone number and I suggest everyone do the same.

When the police officer arrived I played the message for him. He asked Kyle to confirm that he had no previous knowledge about this call. The officer asked me to Google “Cheating Anonymous” and nothing relevant came up. He then went on to explain that he often comes across a scam people run to extort money out of people with a guilty conscience. He comes across cases where the caller will say, “Pay x amount of money and we will hide the evidence from your spouse.” He was surprised that the call didn’t end that way because in his experience that is the way it usually ends. The call I received is not considered criminal because they are not extorting money or threatening me.

The police officer also said, “Use Social Media at your own peril.” He said the police department has many issues with Facebook privacy.

Source: someecards.com

Clearly, Kyle and I have a wonderful strong relationship. We are best friends and partners. We made the commitment to get married and we communicate well. The thing that really frightened me was that because of my carelessness anyone can access my information and send out a personalized attack directly to my phone. If our relationship was not so strong this attack on my character could have potentially wreaked havoc on our relationship. I consider myself a Social Media Specialist so this affected my thoughts on my career path as well. How could I fall victim to something like this when I want to make a living advising others on how to use Social Media to their benefit?

I am publishing this to show that everyone needs to protect their information online. I don’t have concrete evidence that the person took my information from a Social Media site but it is a strong possibility. Either way, everyone should be careful about what exactly they want the world to access about themselves. These are free platforms we use to connect with friends, family and to build our professional networks. We can keep up with our favorite celebrities, television shows and special interests or hobbies. No one forces us to use Social Media sites. We each own the ability to pick and choose the information we display online.

It is a learning and growing experience for me. I hope this doesn’t happen to anyone else because it is a jarring experience.

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