7 Tips for Staying Safe on Social Media

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Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are great for staying in touch with family and friends. With their ease of use these social networks have become the world’s largest database of accessible, personal information. Unfortunately, it is easy to forget that while you are connecting with friends and acquaintances, cyber-scammers and identity thieves are lurking on those platforms too. Here are some guidelines to keep you safe.

Secure Your Privacy Settings
Verify the settings on your social accounts and be sure your phone number and email addresses are hidden from public view. Each platform has specific settings to ensure privacy:

  • In lieu of making them public, adjust Facebook privacy settings so that your posts are only visible to friends or friends of friends.
  • Uncheck the “Discoverability” boxes in Twitter’s safety and security controls to prevent searches using your email address and phone number. If you’re only using Twitter for private communications, check the “Protect your tweets” box, which limits your posts’ visibility.
  • For your personal Instagram page, simply set your account to private.

Be cautious of links and files
If you’re not sure about the destination, don’t download or click on the link. Be wary of out-of-character posts from friends, and always double check the sender’s email address when you receive an email.

Use Text Messaging to Prevent Unauthorized Logins
Save your cell number to each platform and require text messaging to confirm your identity when you log in on a new device. This two-factor authentication or login verification, can keep your accounts secure even if your username and password are stolen.

Keep devices and software updated
Software updates for your desktop and mobile apps include critical security patches that protect your data from new threats. Update your systems as soon as you are notified in order to protect your accounts.

Use discretion on your whereabouts
Don’t share your address, that only helps thieves target your home. In addition, be careful about sharing specific travel plans — your vacant home could quickly become a target.

Keep in mind that you can disclose this information inadvertently if you allow your posts or images to be tagged with your location, so make sure to disable location tagging:

  • Uncheck the “Tweet with location” box on the “Privacy and safety” settings page on Twitter.
  • On Facebook and Instagram, go to your phone’s settings, find location services, and disable them for the individual apps.

Use strong passwords
Passwords are one of the keys to protecting your identity. Be sure to use strong, secure passwords to keep your information safe.

Avoid third-party applications that require access to your profile
Quizzes that promise to identify your celebrity doppelgänger, assemble a bank-heist team, or test your hometown loyalty are often nothing more than information-siphoning schemes. Even though they assure you they won’t post to your feed without permission, their ultimate goal is to woo you into surrendering your profile information and friends list.

You’ll find folks of every stripe on social media: friends, trolls, criminals and more. Stay alert and adopt a few smart practices in order to socialize safely and keep your personal information private.

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