Many of us spend a large amount of our time on social media—Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, or other sites. We share our pictures, our feelings and our memories. However, we also share a lot of personal information on these sites, whether we know it or not.
Because of social media’s large presence and the amount of information we share through it, it is extremely important to be a smart social media user. Follow the tips below to help you stay safe while using these platforms.
1. Don’t Overshare
It’s easy to share information on social media, and much of it is content you may not deem important. But, individuals with bad intentions can use excessive personal information you share to commit crimes, such as stealing your identity, breaking into your house when you’re on vacation or stealing packages off your porch.
This also goes for LinkedIn; the more work and education history you share, the easier it is for thieves to steal your identity or guess your passwords. Be careful of any specifics and details you share online, and before you hit “post,” consider how the information could be used by someone of ill will.
2. Check Your Privacy Options
On Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and all of the other sites, make sure your security settings are where you want them to be.
It’s wise to make your Facebook profile private to users that aren’t your friends and to request approval of your Instagram followers. Limit the personal information that other social media users can see by adjusting your privacy settings on each of your profiles.
You can also edit your privacy options to require a security question be asked when logging on to the site from a new IP address, which will help prevent your accounts from getting hacked.
3. Verify People and Pages
Before you accept a friend or follow request, look at the individual’s page. If you know them and can verify that through the information available, then it’s probably safe to approve them (if you want).
If the information on their profile page doesn’t seem to add up, or you’re not sure if you know them, don’t be afraid to deny (or just ignore) a request.
If there are a lot of typos, only limited pictures or posts that just don’t sound like the person you think it might be, you should proceed with caution. It is not uncommon for people to impersonate other users or even brands on social media and use it to take advantage of other users. Keep this in mind and do a thorough check before you accept.
4. Do Not Violate the Social Media Policies of Your Company
Be familiar with the terms and conditions that regulate social media use at your work. Some obvious no-no’s are using company property to check your personal social media pages or posting on social media about co-workers.
You should never share company-specific details online—for some companies, this may even qualify as the sharing of trade secrets and can land you in big trouble.
5. Know How Sites Use Your Information
Many social media sites sell some of your information to advertisers; that is how they keep the use of their sites free. You have a right to know, however, exactly what information is being collected and how it is being used. Most social media sites will have this policy posted somewhere on their company website, but if you can’t find it, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for a copy of this policy.
6. Don’t Buy into the Popularity Contest
Contrary to popular belief, the more is not necessarily merrier when it comes to social media friends. Make sure your “friends” online are actual real people that you know. For any “friends” that you’re not sure about, dig into their profile a little bit more and if you still have concerns, don’t be afraid to remove them from your network.
Having the most “friends” out of all your friends is not worth the risk if it leads to imposters knowing too much information about you.
7. Check Your Password
Make sure your password is something that could not easily be guessed by someone scrolling through your Facebook, YouTube channel, Instagram or Twitter (e.g. if all of your posts are about your dog Binkie, then don’t make your password Binkie123).
It’s also best to have a different, unique password for each social media site. If you access social media from your phone, be sure that your phone also has a unique, difficult-to-guess password.
8. Sounds Too Good to be True? It Probably is.
When a social media account gets hacked, the account will likely start posting offers for various goods. A common example is: RayBan sunglasses for $19.99!.
Do not ever click on these links, no matter how tempting. It’s nice to also let your friend know if you think their account has been hacked.
9. Install Antivirus Software
Make sure that any computer you use to access social media has antivirus software.
Because of the sheer amount of posts and links and profiles related to social media sites, it’s very easy for viruses to sneak into the content, particularly if you do inadvertently click on a malicious link. Good antivirus software will also protect your pages against viruses that are trying to steal your information.
10. Lose the Location
It’s tempting to tell the world exactly what you’re doing exactly when you’re doing it and exactly where you are. That, however, is not a smart practice. As was already previously mentioned, this can make it easy for thieves to take advantage of the fact that you’re in Aruba for a week. But it also makes it tempting for individuals to stalk you during your everyday routine.
Make sure to turn off all location settings on your social media sites so that Facebook or Twitter doesn’t announce to the whole world that you posted that picture at the gym Monday morning (when you were supposed to be at work).
As with most things, it’s important to listen to your gut when it comes to social media. This friend request looks a little weird? Ignore it. That ad has too many typos? Don’t click on it. The friend of a friend of a friend that you approved keeps commenting on all of your pictures? Delete him. Remember that you’re safety is always the number one priority.
You can never be too cautious when it comes to social media. However, if you follow these tips listed above, you’ll be off to a good start.