As of last year, 79% of Americans had social media profiles that they used to stay connected with family and post life updates.
Although it’s common to share personal info on Facebook and Instagram, doing so can have serious consequences. Hackers can use personal details like your birthday and pet’s name to crack your security questions and break into your internet service and online accounts. They may even be able to use the info on your social profiles to steal your identity.
If you want to protect your identity online, here are five ways to stay safe on social media.
If your profiles can be viewed by anyone, you should consider making them private. Believe it or not, having public social media accounts can make you more vulnerable to cybercrimes.
Your social media profile contains lots of personal info like your birthday, location, pet’s name, and phone number. Although sharing these basic details online seems harmless, it can make it easier for criminals to steal your identity.
According to cybersecurity experts, everyone’s social security number has likely been compromised as a result of data breaches at Equifax, Capital One, and other financial institutions. If a criminal already has your SSN, the info on your social media profile may be the last piece of the puzzle they need to steal your identity and majorly disrupt your life.
That’s why it’s better to be safe than sorry and make your profiles private so only your child’s friends can view their status updates.
Many platforms like Instagram and Facebook will share your whereabouts unless you disable location tracking.
Your phone or internet provider may also be recording the location of each photo you take and encoding it in the metadata. Criminals can extract this data and use it against you, so make sure you turn off location tracking on your phone and tablet too.
On iPhones, you can usually do this by navigating to your privacy settings and choosing the location services tab. Then click on your camera and select “never” to keep your data safe.
Even if you have your privacy settings turned on, you should still be careful about what you post online. Personal info like the name of your first pet is often used as a security question for your email. If people with bad intentions get their hands on these personal details, they could use them to breach your accounts, so it’s best to avoid sharing them online.
You should also avoid posting about your travel plans or sharing beach selfies until you’re back home. If criminals in your area find out that your house is empty, they may break in and steal your valuables.
Another thing to watch out for is fake giveaways. Hackers will sometimes use phony sweepstakes as a way to steal your personal data or spread malware. Before you share a giveaway with your friends, make sure it’s from a trusted source.
If you get a friend request from someone you don’t know, it could be a fake account made by a hacker. Phony profiles are more common than you’d think—they account for 15% to 25% of all users on social media platforms like Facebook.
Accepting a friend request from a fake profile renders your privacy settings useless. The hacker behind the account will be able to view all the status updates you’ve hidden from the general public. Then they can mine your profile for personal info and potentially use it to compromise your other accounts.
Once you accept their friend request, hackers may also try to send you a shortened link on Facebook Messenger that contains malware. So make sure you only click on links from people you trust.
Your social media profiles contain lots of personal info, so it’s important to protect them with strong passwords. They should be at least 12 characters long and contain symbols, numbers, and both uppercase and lowercase letters. It’s also important to make sure you’re not using the same passwords on multiple websites.
Some platforms like Facebook and Google also allow you to use your login credentials to sign up for other websites. Although this makes the account creation process easier, it compromises your security. If a hacker gains access to your social media, they’ll be able to sign into many of your other accounts, so try to avoid using this feature.
Using social media improperly can compromise your online safety. But with these tips, you’ll be able to better safeguard your personal data and hopefully avoid becoming a target for cybercrimes.
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