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Both online petitions and incidences of identity theft have gone up in the last few years. Could the two be connected?
It's no secret that online petitions require personal information. Most states require a petition signature to include the signer's legal name and address to verify the validity of the signature.
Websites like Change.org are popular for signing online petitions on a variety of topics but many of them are not secure and information sent online is not encrypted. Information that's not encrypted is easier for hackers to access and that can be bad news.
Don't reject the petitions entirely but before you sign make sure you're protecting your identity as much as you can.
Change.org is the most popular site for social-change related petitions and they make an effort to protect users.
Petition makers are not allowed to solicit personal financial information such as social security numbers. Signers are not allowed to post a third-party's persona information. But just because the policy forbids it, doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Many similar sites rely in part on user policing to know when something is wrong.
That means you can make an impact. If a petition doesn't look right, report it.
Change.org also clearly states that it's not responsible for user conduct either online or offline. The terms of service also significantly limit the company's liability so if something does happen it might be hard to make a case.
The first step in protecting your identity is keeping identifying information to yourself. Name and address can be ok but a petition should never ask for your social security number, bank or financial information, or credit card numbers.
If you are a victim of identity theft, there are things you can do to recover. Talk to a trusted attorney to figure out how to sort out the situation and fight back.
Petitions are a useful vehicle for social change and online petitions make a more global impact possible but it's important to also consider the risks. Keep your financial information private to prevent identity theft and then you won't have to worry about supporting positive ideas.