Social networking isn’t just for teens. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, everyone has an account these days. This is nice when you want to say hi to your family or old college buddies, but these networks also draw the attention of unsavory types who can use your information for their gain.
Most of us want to stay in contact with our loved ones but not at the risk of our privacy, finances, and home security. Making good choices about what you share and to who is just the beginning of precautions you can take to protect yourself.
Don’t post real-time updates
Your fancy dinner on date night or the view from your hotel on vacation is fun to share but also dangerous. Smart home invaders can use your social media posts to piece together information like where you live, what shiny toys you got for Christmas, or what jewelry you inherited from your grandma.
When you share a status while you’re out or talk about how long you’ll be on vacation, you’re giving thieves an easy window of time to break in and commit their robbery without running into an armed homeowner.
Be selective about who can see your posts
A lot of people are on social media because they like the “likes.” The problem is the bigger your social influence the more you don’t know the people viewing your posts. You should check your privacy settings so only trusted friends or family see your posts. You never know who lurks in your social circle’s shadows.
Keep your identity safe
Your email address, passwords, date of birth, and phone number can all be used to steal your identity. Be careful how much you share on social media, even if it seems innocent. Think about those security questions on your bank account. What kind of things are they asking you? It’s usually things like your mother’s maiden name or your high school mascot. Don’t leave those answers lying around by tagging your profile that you went to a certain high school or your mom’s side of the family are known as the so-and-so’s.
Criminals can be sneaky too. Sometimes on Facebook, you’ll see posts disguised as surveys that seemingly innocent questions, but they can be used to answer your security questions. The next time you see one go by, take a look at it. You might notice it asks for things like the make and model of your first car, your favorite teacher, or your parent’s names.
Protecting your identity is more than just keeping your social security number and credit cards safe. Be vigilant.
Remember that social media can be used against you in a court of law or opinion
Even if you keep your posts private, be aware that what you post on social media can be used against you socially and legally.
We see many employees and students being punished for what they post on social media, sometimes even if the posts are very old. “Inappropriate” posts can mean anything from an off-color joke or politically-charged pictures to sexually explicit content and violent threats. It’s smart to keep your online presence squeaky clean.
Legally, posts, pictures, messages, and videos can be used as evidence in court. This doesn’t just mean if you’ve committed a crime, either. For example, a woman in Nevada fell at a restaurant and injured her back to the point she needed surgery. The defendant used social media evidence to show her mental state and reactions that related to the accident, as well as her fitness tracker data to back up her claims.1
If you want to use social media, be smart about it. Protect your personal information, lock down your account, keep your sharing to a minimum and think about the consequences of what you’re saying before you say it.