When you update your profile on social networking sites such as Facebook, are you helping thieves to empty your bank account? Or ruin your credit? A Baltimore teen learned the hard way about some of the new ways private information can be used against you online.
Lisa Lockwood knew about her 17-year old son's Facebook page, but what she didn't know about were the games attached to the site he was downloading and playing -- until she got a phone call.
"I received a phone call from a Heritage Subaru Volkswagen about my son's credit card application for a vehicle. I spoke to the gentleman, and I said, 'My son hasn't filled out any credit applications. I don't know what you are talking about. He is underage,'" Lockwood said.
Lockwood found out what others have found out, that not everyone on Facebook is a friend, and some of the games that are offered come with liabilities.
One of the games Lockwood's son was playing on his Facebook page offered extra points in exchange for filling out an application that asked for a Social Security number. He provided the information, filling out a total of seven loan applications, a decision he now finds embarrassing.
"My son has been kind of upset about it," Lockwood said. "He was invited to play this game from some of his school friends. I assume they have all done the same thing as well, and I think he is a bit embarassed about it, that I caught him doing this."
Facebook says while they do allow games to be downloaded from its site, the games must be approved and meet its guidelines.
A Facebook representative told "Good Morning America" in a statement that "the collection of personally-identifiable information from Facebook users is strictly controlled and limited by our developer terms of service. ... We are currently investigating particular reports of the incentivization of minor users to provide information in a context that may violate these policies."
But Lockwood said the games don't belong on Facebook in the first place, and hopes her son's experience will serve as a cautionary tale to all parents.
"Parents need to talk to their kids and tell them not to give out personal information on the Internet," she said.
Internet privacy and security lawyer Parry Aftab said that although you may only share a little bit of personal information on each site, these sites combine to create a detailed picture. Crooks can compile dossiers on you from the various Web sites you use. The more information they get, the more ways they can harm you.
For instance, you might receive a pop-up window that tells you that you may win a free iPod if you just fill out a form, or if you apply for what looks like a legitimate mortgage online. Legitimate people are using this information to process credit. But more criminal minds might be using it to take out credit cards, mortgages and all types of credit in your name. They can use a Social Security number to hack into your account, change the password, then empty your money out.
There's also a trend called "spearphishing" in which you receive a legitimate-looking e-mail from a bank claiming there's been a security issue and could you please type in your login and password. The criminals who run this scheme can then log into and empty out your back account.