Facebook can be a great way to reconnect with old friends and make new ones, but it's also a treasure trove of information which, in the wrong hands, can cause a lot of grief.
Donna Calabrese, of Chicago, discovered that it was information on her Facebook profile that thieves used to steal her identity.
“I found out someone used my social security number to file their taxes in Florida,” she recalled, adding that she believes Information like her birthday, address and work history led to the theft.
“It’s really scary. They know my name, my mother’s name, my father’s name, my address, where I grew up and my social security number,” Calabrese said.
Identity theft on social networking sites is a growing problem, said Leena Rao, a Chicago-based writer to TechCrunch.
“People can actually take some of that information [on your profile] and then find your social security number. It is a lot easier to find your social security number now,” Rao explained. “People have expertise now in doing that.”
Rao says seemingly harmless information can lead a thief to find out your social security number.
"I think people don’t realize that some of the basic information like where you live or your date of birth are actually ways identity thieves can steal your personal information," she said.
There are ways you can protect your profile and your identity. Consider removing your birth date and the city where you live. You can also change the privacy setting so that only your "friends" can see your personal information.
Most important, be careful with whom you connect online.
"When you do get a friend request, do not accept requests from people you don’t know," Rao warned. "You really need to vouch for the identity of all the people that can see your information on Facebook."
Facebook has information about their privacy controls on the website.