Social media is a double-edged sword. It’s great for keeping in touch with friends and family, but it can also expose you to stalkers and cyber-criminals. You mean to share information only with friends and family members, but it’s not hard for others to view your account. Sometimes those others are viewing your account for nefarious purposes. Learn the basics of social media safety.
There are some things you should never post on social media and one of them is your personal details. But what exactly constitutes personal information? Here’s a list:
- Full birthday (with the year)
- Relationship status
- Phone number
- Your current location
- Vacation plans
The more information you make available on social media, the easier it is for someone to steal your identity. While it’s fun to receive tons of birthday wishes every year, your birthday is a key piece of information thieves need to steal your identity. There are now algorithms that can guess your social security number by using only your birthday and place of birth.
Relationship status may seem harmless enough, but criminals might like to know if you’re in a relationship. If you’re not in a relationship, you may be home alone. Or you may be out and about by yourself. Did you know that every time you post a status update or a picture, you reveal your location through geotagging? You can turn off your location settings on Facebook, but the only way to prevent Facebook from tracking your location altogether is to delete it entirely.
Address and phone numbers are two more data points identity thieves can use to steal your identity. College students are particularly vulnerable to identity theft due to their inexperience with credit and knowing how to protect it. Not to mention their squeaky clean credit files that are ripe for the taking by thieves.
Also, if you have your address listed and you post about your exciting evening out, you have just invited enterprising burglars to stop by. Ditto your vacation plans, although that’s even better from a criminal’s perspective because you won’t be home for days and you probably boarded the dog.
College students are particularly vulnerable to identity theft because their inexperience with credit and how to protect it. Not to mention their squeaky clean credit files that are ripe for the taking by thieves.
Half the fun of social media is seeing all your friends’ pictures and posting your own. But you may want to think twice about what and how you post. Social media safety means being careful about what photos you post.
Photos to think twice about:
- Vacation photos
- Photos of your children
- Embarrassing photos that would prompt your potential workplace to re-evaluate their hiring decision
Vacation photos are fun to look at and post, but at least wait until you get home. You don’t want to alert thieves that you’re away from home and it’ll be days before you return.
Posting photos of your children is something we’re all probably guilty of–we’re just so proud! But be careful. There are sex offenders on the internet, and they use social media. Registered sex offenders are banned from social media in some states, but this only covers offenders who were caught. The risk might be low, but do you really want to take that chance? At least don’t use your children’s real names and be sure to remove location information.
There are a lot of things you shouldn’t post on social media because it might cast you in a negative light with your employer, including photos. Which brings us to the next section.
Here is a list of things you shouldn’t post where either current or potential employers can see them.
- Compromising photos
- Details of your current job
- Negative comments about your employer
- The fact that you’re searching for a job
First of all, you should know that 70% of employers check candidates’ social media accounts before making hiring decisions. Everything you post can affect your professional reputation. Social media is not the place to complain about your current workplace. If you must vent, do it in person with a friend. Social media can be a good place to help you find a job on sites such as LinkedIn, but be careful about what you post.
You don’t want to give away company secrets, either. Upcoming mergers, acquisitions, or investments should never be shared. Even something as innocuous as new office furniture might give a rival company insight into your employer’s bottom line.
Think twice before posting anything that could be interpreted negatively. Don’t swear or bully others. Even things such as spelling mistakes and poor grammar can count against you. It may not seem like an employer should consider that, but they do.
Politics is also a loaded topic. It’s so easy to agree with someone’s political post and share it. But again, you should be careful. You can’t be fired for sharing political posts, but it might cause your employer to view you negatively. You can be fired for bullying others for their political posts or for posting racial or misogynistic content. It’s best to assume your employer can see everything you post.
Here are some additional social media safety tips.
- Use strong passwords and remember to use a different one for every account
- Evaluate your privacy settings. It’s okay to divide your contacts into groups and set different privacy settings for each group.
- Avoid apps that want access to your profile information.
Treat social media with the same care you would treat the real world. Be discreet, be respectful and don’t overshare.