The Dumbest Way Ever to Get Your Identity Stolen

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Facepalm, as the kids would say. Even if you’re a relative newcomer to the Internet, there are probably some things you would consider unsafe to do — such as, oh, posting a picture of your credit or debit card for all the world to see. And yet, a Twitter account rose to prominence last week for lambasting a practice that’s the digital equivalent of walking down a dark alley with your wallet out and an expensive camera around your neck.

The message of twitter.com/needadebitcard is simple: “Please quit posting pictures of your debit cards, people.” The feed’s followers have piled on to call out and laugh at the people who do just that, and a few appear to have been shamed into better behavior, as some of the photos users linked to have been taken down.

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No, it’s not the kind of online photo gaffe that will keep you from running for office 20 years from now, but it’s still extremely, colossally stupid. Why not also publicize your PIN, Social Security number and a message that says, “Come steal my identity please,” because that’s basically what you’re doing.

Provided you’re not also stupid enough to photograph and post the back of the card with the three-digit security code and your signature, what could a would-be cyber-thief do with your name and account number?

Plenty. We’ll go out on a limb and assume that if you’re the type of person who has no compunctions about flashing your virtual undies to the world, there’s a lot of other information someone could glean about you from poking around your Facebook page or Twitter feed. Name of your pet? Year you graduated high school? Mom’s maiden name? These are all the kinds of details that could potentially be up for grabs. They’re also the kinds of details that are typically used to authenticate your identity when you call your bank or credit card company. Armed with this information, it would take very little effort for someone to pretend to be you.

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It’s tempting to assign just a tiny bit of the blame for this trend to card companies: In recent years, there has been a proliferation — especially among prepaid cards — of cards emblazoned with celebrities, cartoon characters, sports stars, you name it. But even if you do have Alex Rodriguez or a Kardashian on your debit card, why the photo? Your friends do know what they look like already. For the most part, there’s no excuse for this trend except omnipresent cameras and Internet connectivity plus poor judgement.

We’ve discussed before how our predilection to share any and all details about our lives with others — be it friends big data or cyber crooks — on the Internet can have serious consequences. Don’t make it even easier for them.

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