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Your Life: Online, Anytime

February 24, 2014, 10:23 PM by Matt Holsen

Your Life: Online, Anytime

We live in an information age and while there's plenty of knowledge to gain about anything and everything, there's also a lot of information about you on the web.

From what your house looks like to who your friends and family are, if you're not careful, you could end up leading a more public life than you intended.

So much for background checks or references on your next resume.  Anybody who's interested in knowing more about you can just go to their preferred social network or search engine.

"People can know more about you than you would think," DSU instructor Josh Stroschein said.

That can be good and bad.  Stroschein is an instructor in the College of Business and Information Systems at Dakota State University.  He says while companies use the Worldwide Web to check up on you before or during hiring for a job, your current employer can also do you a disservice by putting out too much information about your life.

"Usually bios tell a lot about people. Their education, their experience, where they've lived, where they've worked, hobbies and interests. Intimate details that if you're trying to scam somebody, it's nice to know that information because you can create a situation in where it sounds like you know someone better than you really do," Stroschein said.

With Facebook and Twitter, anybody looking to profile you for a scam can do it easily.  We brought in two students from Dakota State and they were a little surprised at how much we found out about them.  Tanner Hubbard and Styler Wisdom are both freshmen at Dakota State. Using just what you can find publicly on Facebook, Twitter and Google, Stroschein was able to get to know them without talking to them face-to-face.

In Hubbard's case, because of a background in football and recruitment by DSU, we found out his size, high school and family members.

"Sports, talent scouts, different sports organizations, they produce a lot of information about the potential subject," Stroschein said.

"Definitely concerns me with my family. I'm a big family kind of guy, so I don't want my family's personal info or anything like getting out there, especially with my friends as well. If anything, I'd want my info and not theirs," Hubbard said.

While it's not credit card or social security numbers, a simple background can get a scammer a long way. 

"So you can try to create this third-party relationship in that I don't know you directly or I don't know Tanner. So maybe I'm trying to scam his parents. But, 'I'm a member of the football team.  He got in trouble; he's in jail right now. Can you send $50 so I can bail him out?' That's happened in my family. One of my grandparents got scammed in that sense. 'Hey, so and so is in jail.' They knew more about him then my grandparents realized or thought that they should, so they just made some assumptions. He must be a friend; here's $50," Stroschein said.

There was limited info about Wisdom because he doesn't post as much, but we did find his address among other things. With Google Maps, anybody is able to take a peek at your house. Besides that, Wisdom was surprised to see his name on an organization's website.

"I'm actually a little surprised how he has a member of Abate," Wisdom said. "Does get you a little side-blinded about where you are joining, where your memberships are, how much they post about you."

It can be hard to control what others do with the information they know about you, but you can control what you do. Limiting what information you give out, though, can be hard.

"They do train you. They push you to put as much on there. I've logged into Facebook multiple times. They're like, 'Hey, let's learn more about you. Where do you work? Where do you live? Did you do this before you went to there? You're 90 percent of the way done.'  I thought I was done the minute I signed up," Wisdom said.

If you play along on the Web and put yourself out there, be sure to stay on top of privacy settings.

"If you don't understand those or you're not using those correctly or you just never thought about, you might be surprised at how long your data lives and who can actually access it and see it," Stroschein said. "The biggest advice I can give is just be aware. It's not a vanity thing but searching your name and see what results come back."

According to a Pew study, seven in 10 people have searched the internet for info about other people.

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