Social Media - Dos and Don’ts
Social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest, have exploded in popularity among Americans in recent years. While a valuable resource for connecting with friends and acquaintances or following the latest news online, social networking sites are also prime targets for identity thieves and scam artists who may exploit someone’s personal information.
To avoid falling victim to criminals on the Internet, keep these Do’s and Don’ts in mind:
- DO set privacy settings to the most secure setting available. Most social networking sites offer ways to restrict access to make sure information is being shared only with friends and not the Internet at large.
- DON’T post any information that would let someone know about a vacation or whether the house is empty. Posting about being out of town for a few days could make someone a likely target for thieves. Children should never mention whether they are home alone.
- DO make a unique password for every social media site. Consider making the passwords stronger by adding numbers or special characters. Having strong, unique passwords for each site helps prevent hackers from taking over social media accounts to send spam to other users, scam friends or use information against the owner of the account.
- DON’T post anything online that would cause problems if made public. Follow the “Front Page Rule,” which reminds social-media users not to put anything on a social media site they would not want to see on the front page of a local newspaper.
- DO remember that employers, school and university administrators and others often check Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites for information posted online.
- DON’T click on links that may appear to be unusual or suspicious, even if they look like they are sent by friends. Much like links sent through spam email, these could lead to schemes to solicit personal information or could launch malicious software or viruses that could damage a computer.
- DO be selective about who is accepted as a “friend” or “follower” on a social media account. Identity thieves can easily create fake profiles in order to obtain personal information that might otherwise have been private.
- DON’T post any information that can lead hackers to passwords for online banking or other accounts. For example, common questions for those who have forgotten their passwords for financial or other sites include “What’s your mother’s maiden name?” or “What’s your favorite pet?” Criminals may be able to find those answers easily on social-networking sites.
- DO assume that status updates, photos and videos posted on social networks are permanent. Just because a profile is deleted or information is removed, anyone on a computer has the ability to print text or photos or save items to a computer.
The Attorney General’s Community Engagement Department offers seminars and training free of charge to schools and community groups that want to learn more about social networking and online safety. Call (800) 448-3014 to schedule a presentation.
For more about online privacy, visit OnGuardOnline.gov, the federal government’s comprehensive website on Internet safety.