When your web posts come back to haunt you

In addition to this, unwisely cropped photographs posted to the family website can also show what you have that's worth stealing, the layout of the house and soon. Even if your family homepage doesn't carry your address, it can still be shockingly simple to find out exactly where you live.

Simply pay a visit to an online 'who is' service such as the one provided by www.who.is. This and similar sites give full details, including a billing address, of registered domains. Enter yours, and if you haven't taken the simple precaution of using a PO Box number as the billing address, your impending holiday might be instantly linked to a property at an address that will be left unoccupied on known days. Luckily, some domain registration companies use their own address in these fields, but it's always worth checking. Some family home pages and domain registration records even carry a home phone number, which could be ideal for mounting a tentative telephone phishing scam, or at least making sure that there's no one home.

Posting your family tree on your domain is a great way to discover missing relatives. It's also an increasingly good way of letting a growing band of genealogical researchers know you exist. For a percentage of the proceeds, such researchers will put you in touch with solicitors holding wills to which you're a beneficiary.

While this may land you an unexpected windfall, for the fraudster, your online family tree could be a gold mine. Dates and places of birth and mother's maiden names are the basis for traditional questions asked by a range of call centres instead of easily forgotten passwords. Matching these up with a street address provided by a whois service might end in a major case of identity theft. And family home pages are by no means the only places to check when assessing how much information people can gather about you.

Social site profiling

Social networking sites are agreat way to meet new people, catch up with old friends and stay in touch. Increasingly, however, they're also becoming a resource for profiling people. Sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Friendster and Friends Reunited,are all prime hunting grounds for those looking for background to the lives of others.

By displaying personal details and the hometown of each page owner, it's fairly easy to positively identify someone on a social networking site. Because of this, it's a good idea to either keep your profile private or be deliberately vague about yourself.

Your page is also useful in helping people build a comprehensive network of your acquaintances. A potential employer might make unfair assumptions about your character based on those you connect to. You might have a good NetRep, but what about your friends? Sometimes it pays to do a little pruning.
There are quite a few other places online where you may want to consider editing your presence, too.Take Amazon and its wish list facility. Designed as a way to alert friends and family to potential gifts they might like to buy you, could yours be telling strangers too much?

From the main Amazon page click on the wish list link. Enter a search pattern, a name or email address. After pressing return, you can further narrow your search by entering a location. When setting up such lists, the idea is that you can add in unique details about yourself so that people can be sure it's you they're buying for. Unfortunately, in doing so, you could also be giving identity thieves a head start.

Adding details such as your date of birth, a pet's name, your favourite football team and so on will identify you to your friends, but you've probably also given out your location. When added to information from other sources, such as the electoral roll, this could also be enough for someone to take your identity by stating your address and providing answers to supposedly secret security questions. A more secure way of identifying yourself is to state an achievement or a nickname in your wish list – something only useful to those who already know you.