Children, Identity Theft, and Facebook. A real concern or unfounded?

My wife uses facebook, which I have no problem with. I choose not to for reasons that are not relevant here. We have two small children ( 3 yrs old and 1yr old). The problem is that she would like to post pictures and info about the children on facebook. I am concerned about their identity being stolen. Specifically, by some evil genius or hacker, using a bot or program, to parse together information culled from Facebook , such as birthdates, names, address. Technically we probably wouldn’t find out until we had to register the childrens names for something official. is this a legitimate concern or am I just a paranoid parent?

I think you’re being paranoid.


You can set the privacy settings for the photo albums so that only her close friends can see them. Facebook allows many different levels of privacy.

Plus, think of it this way: Anybody can find your name, phone number, and address just by flipping through a phone book. Public city records hold even more info. You probably don’t worry about rampant ID Theft from the yellow pages, and Facebook can be much more restrictive than that. So I wouldn’t worry.

Paranoid, but if you’re worried why wait? Register your kids for their SIN/SS number now, once you have them you have the control.

An identity theft is more likely to occur through a minimum wage employee with total access to all your information. It’s just a lot easier. Crooks and con-people generally take the line of least resistance.

That said, whenever you decide to put something on the web, remember, it’ll be there forever. Or at least it can be. Those cute pictures of your kids can be saved by anyone.

I don’t say this to scare you but inform you. Twenty years from now those pics can still be floating around the Internet.

Remember just because you set your Facebook setting to disallow something, doesn’t mean Aunt Gladys will not download the pics and upload them to a Flickr account, meaning no harm of course, but still

Also make up fakes and stick with them. For instance, I was born in 1964. NEVER use your real birth date for any site. I would simply use Jan 1st of the year you were born.

Use general locations. Don’t put a small town, use the closest big city to you.

The key to really preventing ID theft is always use a separate ID and password for any site that involves money or credit.

In other words if my handle here is Markxxx and my password 123456, make darn well sure on bank sites or credit card sites you login is DIFFERENT and you use a different password.

This is a key problem, too many people use the same info. So thus if I was to get your Straightdope login and password, I could go to a site and try it there and see if it works.

Banks are getting around this by having challenge questions, but even those are common enough to get by if you’re being ripped off by a friend, so to speak.

For the OP the concern is do you really want pictures of your kids floating around, possibly forever? And I’m not meaning this as a bad thing, but simply as something to think about.

I don’t think it’s totally paranoid. People often put a ton of stuff online that can bite them in the ass later. For example, we April Fool pranked a co-worker by changing his computer wall-paper and all themes, skins etc. to My Little Pony stuff. To do so we needed to guess his password, which we got from a public Facebook photo album (pet’s name).

Generally, as long as you keep your security settings very restrictive, information isn’t available to the world at large, but if your account gets compromised or an idiot friend does something stupid, then more people might see that info than you think. My ex for example (I’m on her friend list) has all the information you would ever need to figure out the most common “Security/Challenge Questions” used by phone banking and such:

“What is your mother’s maiden name?” she has album of her mother’s family with people tagged so you can guess that her mother’s maiden name is her uncle’s last name.

“What is the name of your first pet?” an old photo of her as a kid with their dog, Sparky, named in the caption.

“What was your high school mascot?” her high school is listed and has the same mascot today as it did back then.

The main stuff, birthday, hometown, employer etc. is all in her main profile.

But as Markxxx pointed out, most thieves don’t choose methods that require them to get lucky or that require detective work, because it’s too hit-and-miss. It’s much easier to run a scam that generates more positive hits than crossing your fingers and the off chance that someone makes enough Facebook blunders.

Another vote for “paranoid.” But it doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to be concerned, particularly if your wife’s one of those people who friends everyone on FB. I mean, if she’s got 1000 friends on FB, I’d be a bit uncomfortable with TMI floating around out there. But if it’s really on her actual friends and family, and she’s posting things like pix of little Tommy’s 3rd birthday, I’d say no problem.

I guess my main concern is that between the birth announcements ( “we had our baby last Friday! John Doe was born April 4 2008, weighing 6, 4 oz etc”, and the normal info that is given on these sites ( “our party next Saturday is a 7:00 pm, our address is 16 Paradox Way, etc.”) that someone could develop a program, a specific search program maybe, to cull all the info needed to assume an actual identity and use it for any number of applications. Off the top of my head fake credit cards come to mind, the perpetrator knowing that it will probably be a long time before a current child has reason to look into his/her credit rating.
And Markxxx, I know what you mean about kids and pictures. The words pedophile and photoshop come to mind :frowning:
Anyway it’s probably paranoia like others have said. I have a history of worrying about things that never happen. :smack:

Hm. What others have said–up your privacy settings as much as you can, definitely. It’s kinda scary how much info people can get off social media sites in general and parse together, but your wife doesn’t use twitter or anything else besides Facebook, right?

No, and she’s pretty private even with Facebook. I guess I’ve just heard too many horror stories about identity theft and computer security breaches.