There are many online advertising websites that will let you advertise anything from cars, boats, houses, and even that timeshare you keep paying maintenance on year after year. Craigslist, for example, offers a completely free service and allows its users to submit ads with any contact information they choose. But how much should the casual user submit?
Other advertising websites specialize in more specific areas, such as the timeshare I mentioned above. There are literally hundreds of timeshare sites on the Internet today, some charge outrageous fees for their services, others are free, and a lot find a happy medium somewhere in between. This brings rise to the very competitive nature of the timeshare advertising industry. Many of these sites have not taken the necessary steps to secure your personal contact information or to inform you about the risks associated with revealing this information to the general public. In fact, many publish such details as your complete name, address, and phone number. There is so much at risk here and little effort made to advise the casual user. After all, the peronalized ad makes you feel good about an ad because it is “personalized" with all that contact information. However, do you really need everyone to know this and still achieve your objective?
Every website should have a clear and readily accessible privacy statement. More so, when you place an ad or enter personal information on a website, give careful consideration as to how much information you make available to the casual viewer. It is adviseable not to reveal any personal contact information until you know the intentions of the other party. Look for websites that have taken your privacy into consideration when asking you to complete forms online and to present contact information to its viewers. See if they deploy any kind of data encryption, also known as SSL or Secure Sockets Layer. This is a technology widely used to secure data as it passes from one computer to another. Many browsers will display a yellow lock or other indicator on the screen when this feature is active on a website. By all means don't ever enter your credit card information into a form that does not explain how they secure this information.
When you set up your account on a classifieds website, you should have the option to conceal all of your personal contact information and rely on a private messaging system to receive messages from interested parties. Offering a private messaging system should be paramount for any Internet website to adequately secure your personal information, or at least offer you that choice. If all that you offer is a username, there is no way the casual eye can pick up your email address, your phone number, or, worse, your home address.
Interested parties should be required to register with the website; this is one additional step to ward off potential risks. It acts as a deterent to those looking for easily accessible information, and keeps “data mining" programs from easily accessing your personal information. Parties interested enough to contact you will register and oblige your wishes to be contacted via the private messaging system.
"Data mining" programs are readily accessible and can be used to skim web sites for email addresses, phone numbers, and even credit card information (on sites that have done nothing to secure this data). If you place an ad on a website that requires you to enter any personal information, consider using an email address only, and also consider using one that is set up only for Internet forms. This way if the email address is compromised you don't risk having your primary personal email address being bombarded with SPAM. Imagine the ramifications if your phone number or home address ended up in the wrong hands? It is just too risky to have this information accessible to the casual viewer of a website, regardless of how eager you are to get your ad online.
Take care of your personal information and happy selling!
Sam White has been involved in the Travel industry for over 4 years. He has specialized in vacation rental and timeshare resales advertising and is committed to re-shaping the perception of the secondary timeshare market. Sam is the owner and developer of two websites which have more helpful information to both timehare owners and vacationers alike. You can visit them at http://www.timesharegateway.com and http://www.timeshare-gateway.com. Timeshare Gateway is a vacation rental and timeshare resale classified advertising website designed to be “owner friendly" by not taking a fee to advertise up-front. It is also a discussion forum and user group, and hosts discussions, resort reviews and other helpful information.