Protecting your information online is becoming increasingly more important. With the growth of social media, millions of people can easily stay in touch and express themselves with friends, family and associates. But with the prevalence of computer hackers, it’s important to proactively keep yourself safe and your account and information private and secure. Here are some helpful online and social media security tips for all age groups.
How might you use social media safely and securely?
Here are a few helpful tips when browsing a social media site. Most importantly though, remember that whatever information you share becomes public and often is then the property of the social media site and can be shared by them or others.
- Don’t share your password. If you have shared it or suspect it’s been stolen, you should change your password immediately, so you, and only you, have access to your account.
- Change your password. It’s a good idea to change your password from time to time and choose a complex combination of letters and numbers, using upper and lower cases and other marks. And remember to use different passwords for each social media site.
- Check your privacy settings. If you’re able to adjust the privacy settings, choose the right level to suit your comfort. Only choose to share the information you want with the people you choose to share it.
- Control who can search for you. Social media sites will often let you make your profile “public”, where people can search and find you, or “private”, where people can only find you if you give them your address.
- Don’t accept invitations to connect from strangers. If the invitation comes from someone who shares a common connection, contact your mutual connection to confirm that the invitation is legitimate.
- Use good judgment when posting online. Internet content will last online forever, so be careful not to post something that might embarrass you, your family or your business associates.
- Use caution when clicking on links. When you see posts or receive messages from “friends” through a site that contains links, treat them like you would an email message to help avoid phishing scams.
- Be cautious of “quizzes” and “games”. These are fun to take but sometimes they are engineered to gather information about you.
How might you avoid scams in social media?
Criminals troll social media like they do with email phishing scams. Use a few precautions while online to avoid common scams, especially if you’ve accumulated financial resources. Here are some tips to avoid common scams:
- Search your name. Every so often, enter your name into an internet search engine to see what information about you comes up. This is the kind of information a potential scammer would be able to find. If you think you’re sharing too much information, go to the privacy settings and restrict who can see your information and what information they can see.
- Make sure you know your social media "friends." When you receive a friend request, even if you know you have a friend in common, confirm that the request is legitimate. Make sure requests are coming from people who are actually who they say they are.
- Practice caution on dating sites. Even on legitimate dating sites, you don’t know if a person you meet through the site is telling the truth. When corresponding with potential dates, be suspicious of fake photos, frequent spelling errors, and expressions of love early in the relationship. You should also be concerned if someone you’ve been communicating with avoids an in-person meeting. Scammers often claim to be working overseas. Never send money to anyone you meet online, even if they seem sincere.
- Watch out for unsolicited callers. No one from the government, including the IRS, will ever call you to demand money or your personal information, or threaten legal action if you don’t provide it. If the government needs information, they will send a letter by mail, which includes a specific number and a person to call. According to the IRS, “A big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls or emails from people who say they are from the IRS urging immediate payment. This is not how we operate. People should hang up immediately and contact TIGTA (the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration) or the IRS.”
Looking for more information and other social media safety tips?
Check out these additional resources:
- Stay Safe Online. Learn how to protect yourself, your family and your devices with helpful tips and resources.
- Good digital parenting. Family Online Safety Institute's tips, tools and rules for online safety.
- Resources on Frauds Impacting Seniors. Helpful resources from the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging.
- Do not call registry. Register your mobile and land lines to avoid unwanted telemarketing calls.