"Every one of you . . . is a commodity," Internet security expert Linda Criddle said at the Utah Attorney General's Economic Crime Conference at Salt Lake City's Embassy Suites. "Somebody is willing to pay to know the color of your eyes."
That kind of personal information can give criminals access to financial accounts, help them select and profile potential victims, and even put users' friends and relatives at risk, Criddle said.
Criddle described a family tree her own father posted online to display the fruits of his genealogical research. He took it down once she pointed out that "mother's maiden name" is a common security backup question for online accounts.
"Utah is a big state for genealogy," she said. "If you are into genealogy, you should not be putting that information out there."
Online obituaries, wedding registries and birth announcements often contain much of the same data - along with a notice to potential identity thieves that those named are involved in an emotional event and may not notice new, mysterious debts.
"There is an opportunity every step of the way," Criddle said.
Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace also give predators a bevy of clues into the lives and families of users, many of whom believe they have preserved their anonymity, Criddle said.
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