Guest Blogger: Dan Schawbel talks about the recent hijacking of his Gmail and Paypal accounts.
When it comes to PR, never has there been a better time to communicate your personal brand to the world. Social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace, MyBlogLog and Ning let you establish yourself and form relationships with others.
But, when you open accounts with multiple social networks, a web-based e-mail service, a blog and online access to your bank account, you become particularly vulnerable to identity theft. With so many sources that store your personal information, you must be careful about what information you share, and how you store or share your account information. There are far too many hackers and thieves in the world to not protect yourself.
I learned this the hard way. I registered for all those accounts and more. I didn’t think a lot about maintaining different passwords for the more crucial accounts. I didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about losing access to my mail, finance and other accounts. If there was a problem, I could just prove my identity, and then they’re restore my control, right?
Wrong. I’m now frozen out of my Gmail and Paypal accounts, after someone got my login information. There are any number of ways someone can get your User ID and password. But that’s another story.
I lost the contact information in my Gmail account. That’s where I keep track of the many members of my network. I lost hundreds of dollars from my Paypal account. Of course I have both Google and PayPal holding investigations.
My Gmail account is a huge part of my personal brand. I use it to stay in touch with my network of personal and business contacts, and with the media. To these people, firstname.lastname@example.org was me. Suddenly, someone else controlled my name, my contacts, my money.
I was screwed.
I posted this case on my blog so that I could collect missing members of my network and to warn other about what can happen. Tiffany Monhollon, one of the columnists for my new magazine, wrote me back saying she had a similar case of having her identity hijacked:
“I found out this weekend that someone’s hijacking my blog content in its entirety and reposting it at their website under my blog name, using my personal photo, etc. but giving me absolutely no credit and not linking to me whatsoever. Oh, and they’re a “job search company” potentially making money off my writing and I don’t even make a cent off my own content because I don’t use advertising right now!” – Tiffany Monhollon, littleredsuit.com
As you can see, it’s important to monitor your brand through all the websites that you currently belong to. If something were to happen, you need a disaster recovery plan. One way of recovering what you’ve lost is to database all your contacts as you make them. This is a fool proof way of reconnecting with those you have lost touch with after an incident such as the one I just went through. Be sure to set complicated passwords and to vary them across the sites you belong to. Protecting your brand is required in a world where people have access to private information.
About today’s Guest Blogger
Many thanks to our first guest blogger on Commonsense PR. Personal Branding Blog author and Personal Branding Magazine publisher Dan Schawbel. He offered to write about his experience with identity theft as a way to spread the word about identity theft (and maybe, you know, promote his personal brand).