Social media: where you go to catch up with friends and family, get your news, and watch funny videos of puppies. Oh, and where you can put your personal safety at risk without even realizing it.
Posting information on websites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter is a great way to stay connected with those near and far. But it’s easy to forget that cyber thieves and other criminals are on them, too. Over-sharing can make you vulnerable to identity theft, burglary, or other crimes.
At Ally, we care about more than just the security of your financial information. We want you to stay safe, period. The following list of do’s and don’ts will help you stay connected on social media without compromising your safety.
Do: Set Your Accounts to “Private”
You may want your friends to know your every move and thought. But what about the other billions of people on Facebook and Instagram? Probably not.
If you plan to share any personal or sensitive information on social media, setting your account to private is the most secure option available. Your profile and posts will only be accessible to your followers. If you have a long list of friends and followers, think about whether you’re comfortable sharing whatever you post with every single one of them before hitting ‘publish’.
But let’s say you want your page to be public. Limit what personal details you include in your profile. It may not seem like a big deal if someone has your phone number, email address, physical address, or birthday. However, many websites use your birthday or your hometown as a form of authentication, so it’s much easier for someone to commit identity theft or access your financial accounts when they have this personal information.
Don’t: Broadcast Your Whereabouts
We get it. Your photo of a rainbow is so beautiful that everyone should see it. Go ahead and post it, but don’t tag your location.
Social media platforms make it easy to share your location—just tap and your phone’s GPS does all the work. But that doesn’t mean you should announce your locale to all of cyberspace. Turn off your smartphone’s location services and think twice before adding a location to a photo or post. If criminals know you’re in Maui, they also know you aren’t at your house — or worse, might slack up on monitoring your financial accounts while you’re enjoying the beach—and that could make you vulnerable to various types of theft or fraud.
Do: Value Quality Friends Over Quantity
On social media, it’s all about who you know, not how many you know. Receiving countless friend requests can certainly be flattering, but you shouldn’t accept requests from someone you don’t know because that person could be perfectly nice, but they could also be a cybercriminal.
When you accept a friend request from someone you’re not familiar with, you give them access to your personal information (even if you tried to protect yourself by setting your profile to private). And not only do you endanger yourself, but your friends as well. The complete stranger can access your network and request to follow your friends. Your connections will see that you’re a mutual friend and be more likely to trust the stranger and accept the friend request.
Don’t: Click Without Thinking
Chances are, you’ve received a message at some point that said, “You’ve got to check this out!” followed by a link. Social media accounts are frequently targeted by hackers who use phishing to steal your personal information. Click on the seemingly innocent message from your friend and you’ll download dangerous malware that will give the cybercriminal complete access to your computer.
Be skeptical anytime you receive one of these messages. If the link doesn’t sound like something your friend would share, don’t click. Or better yet, check with your friend – they might have just been hacked. If someone is impersonating them, it’s likely you aren’t the only target.
Do: Be Aware of Stranger Danger
Between reconnecting with distant relatives and tracking down long-lost classmates, there are plenty of enjoyable interactions to have on social media. Taking quizzes and playing games on social media can also be fun, but you need to be wary of whose content you’re engaging with.
Content from major publishers, companies, and organizations you recognize is probably safe. If you’re not familiar with the brand or company, however, be careful. Something that seems innocent enough could be a way for someone to gain access to the personal information in your profile.
As the saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.” That’s particularly true when it comes to social media.
These platforms provide countless opportunities for connection, but there are also opportunities for danger. Maintaining your account privacy can help you stay safe —both online and off.