Staying Safe on Social Networks

Getting ready to leave for that nice long trip to Europe? Want the whole world to know? Let’s go to our favorite social network and update our status to show how excited we are.

“Mike is excited to leave…” wait! If you tell people you’re going to be gone, that’s just like a big neon sign saying “come rob me, I’m not home and won’t know about it for a few weeks. Enjoy!”

While social networks are a great way to keep in touch with friends and family, they can also be used against you in evil ways. Here are a few simple tips you can follow to help give you a bit more of a secure feeling with your social network.

  1. Be Discrete: Be careful of what you post in your profile page, a forum, instant message, or any form of electronic communication to help thwart possible ID theft of other forms of malicious threats. Stuff like personal and business names, addresses, phone numbers, birth dates etc… are potentially dangerous to have fully exposed. Be more general in your posts/information making it harder for someone to potentially use the information against you.
  2. Skepticism is your friend: While social network sites have tons of useful and useless information, it is important that you keep a high level of skepticism about you. People often lie for their own gain, or just spout rubbish out of ignorance.
  3. Think Before You Speak You Mind: Don’t be that guy/girl. Although the internet does provide a small level of anonymity things can sometimes come back and bite you in the rear. This includes anything from obscenity, insults, or wild statements. Be chill, be professional. Simply put, think before you type.
  4. Professionalism is your friend: Posting pictures to your social network profile is fun, and can be revealing. And sometimes, a little too revealing. And sometimes, more revealing than you initially thought. So before you post that picture of you downing a large some of beer in college, remember a future employer might see that and think twice about hiring you. Heck, the girl/guy of your dreams might get the wrong picture about you. Keep it professional, dress well, and of course, don’t take off your clothes.
  5. Be Vigilant – Remember the good `ol days of AOL(TM) instant messaging, before the standalone program? (If not, I feel old now). Well ever think if that person you’re talking to is who they say they are? How many of those stories have you heard about: A man believes he’s talking to a 20-something beautiful female, it's really some guy trying to get your personal information and use it against you. The point is that people aren’t always who they say they are. And until you can somehow verify the information they give you, never reveal any personal, financial, or business information.
  6. Check Your Privacy Settings: Social networks have sometimes been notorious for allowing others to see your information, even if they are not your “friend”. However, they will also have available their privacy guidelines/rules. Unlike the End User Liscence Agreement  that we run across when installing programs, it’s probably not a bad idea to look over the privacy settings for your social network. Most clearly define what the site will do with your info etc…

Again, social networks are a great way to stay in touch with people, and being a little conscious of what information gets out to other people can be very instrumental in keeping important information safe and private, where it belongs.