How To Stay Safe While Socializing Online on Facebook & Forums

The net is lots of fun these days. Getting in touch with childhood friends, sharing pictures with friends and family near and far, playing games like Farmville, dealing with people ‘poking’ you, virtual zombies, birthday announcements and friend requests. These things keep people returning to the social networks.

Of course the biggest social network is Facebook. Since it’s the largest and most popular, that’s the social website we’ll talk about today, but please understand that all of the tips that I’m about to share also apply to other social sites or forums that you participate in.

It’s important to realize that these social sites are visited by both outstanding citizens and criminals. All people have free access to participate. So you must be aware and smart about how you share information about yourself in these social places.

Many people don’t realize the consequences of posting details of their life for all the world to see.

They may not realize that…
• Identity theft is a very real and devastating situation.
• They can be targeted for other forms of crime.
• The way they present themselves online is permanent and searchable for no limited amount of time.

So what can you do to protect yourself? Here are some tips:

Make Sure The Sites that you Visit are Safe and Secure

The first thing you need to do is understand the security and privacy available on the sites you are using.

GROAN, right? Yes I know it can be a pain to try to figure out the policies and check through the security on a whole bunch of websites but it’s important that you take the protection of your information serious by doing so. The website owner is not out for you, they are out to make a buck and you better make sure that they’re not using your private information to do so.

Facebook is pretty famous for changing its security settings. New posts will float around on a pretty regular basis about any new change to the security settings that lets others see information you don’t want them to see. You need to check this out and find out if any new changes affect you.

If you’re going to make a purchase from a website post clicking on a Facebook ad, make sure the website is secured with a SSL certificate. When you go through the shopping cart, do you see that the URL in your browser starts with https:// or a http://? It’s the ‘s’ that’s important here. It indicates a secure server versus an open one. Secure servers make it more difficult for a hacker to grab your information mid-transmission, where an unsecured one doesn’t really do anything to prevent this issue.

Don’t Blindly Trust Link URLs, Emails or Friends

Many social networks get broken into by spammers who use the trust of these types of sites to get your information. This can happen via the form of a link that puts a virus on your computer to steal information, or an email that looks like it’s from a person you trust but really isn’t. Basically don’t trust anything on these sites, even if it is from someone you know and trust very well. Their account may have been hacked and they might not even know it yet. If you receive a suspicious link or someone posts something odd on your wall – either ask the person what it is or just delete it. Always choose safe over sorry.

There’s a lot of spam and phishing attempts on Facebook lately. Make sure your website has the best virus scan software installed and running. It’s also a good idea to regularly use a USB backup device to backup your computer files.

Don’t Give Out Too Much Information

Another way to get into trouble with social media is to give out too much info.

Be careful of what you share through your profile, your posts, your private messages and also in your pictures. For instance, if you post a picture of your car – that can spell danger. If the wrong person gets wind of your license plate number, your name and your address they can get pretty far with that information.

A popular feature of Facebook is the birthday notifications. If you decide to show your birthday on your profile, make sure that you just post the date but not the year. Don’t make it easy for identity thieves to piece together what they need to go get a loan in your name.

Going on vacation? Good for you! However, a good vacation can turn bad if you announce it all over Facebook. “I’ll be in Jamaica from February 13-18th. So excited!” That’s leaving a personal invitation to would-be burglars. Wait to post pictures of your trips until you get back home.

Don’t Talk To Strangers

Unless it’s part of your business, it’s a good idea to keep strangers out of your social network. Think of your social groups online as you would offline. Would you invite strangers into your home simply because they asked to be friends? Probably not.

Social networks are obviously lots of fun and are a great way to connect with friends and family. Unfortunately they can also be way too exposing if not controlled. Be smart in your online adventures, take some preventative steps and you’ll have no concerns as you go about connecting with the people you enjoy spending ‘virtual’ time with!

How To Stay Safe While Socializing Online on Facebook & Forums

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kate June 17, 2011 at 10:46 am

Great post! I agree that people should be more careful about what they post on Facebook and what they make public.

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