Unless you live under a rock, you’re aware of the obsession with social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat have all become household names. In fact, over 2 billion of us are active on social media.
Living online can be entertaining, engaging; even educational. But it can also be dangerous. While we may like to think that the only people seeing our posts are well-meaning, that’s often not true. Cybercriminals are also lurking, hiding behind computer screens, looking for posts that offer clues to your personal and financial information.
Here are some things to avoid posting on social media, no matter how tempting it may be to share them on your Facebook wall or Twitter feed.
- Your birthday
It’s fun to see who wishes you happy birthday on your Facebook timeline; however, it’s not so fun knowing that having your birthdate posted on your profile offers up one of the key pieces of information scammers need to steal your identity and open up fraudulent accounts in your name.
- Your address and phone number
Sure, you probably wouldn’t just post your address, but what about if you just bought a new home? Your excitement over your new abode could also open the door for thieves to make an unwanted visit—not exactly the type of housewarming you’re expecting. The same goes for your phone number. Maybe you’re posting that you’re selling that antique china hutch and you include your phone number so anyone who can contact you. Crooks can often locate your address through a reverse phone number lookup.
- Your current location
Often, when we post a status update or photo, we may be unwittingly revealing our current location. This can be risky since it tells potential thieves that while we’re busy sailing the Chesapeake, we’re also not at home. That innocent tweet from the helm may be the signal crooks need to rob your house.
- Clues to your passwords
We’ve all experienced setting up a password hint on websites that contain secure personal information. Typical security questions include: What was the name of your first pet? What’s your mother’s maiden name? What was your high school mascot? What’s the name of the first street you lived on? Including any of these details on your wall or story may not seem like a big deal, but it could provide information needed to crack your logins and hack into your financial accounts.
- Your relationship status
Posting that you’re single on social media may be just the green light a stalker or criminal needs to know that most likely you live alone. If you’re single and don’t want to post that you’re in a relationship when you’re not, it’s best just to leave it at “It’s complicated.”
- Pictures with geotags
Geotagging in a picture is basically providing a roadmap to your location. This is especially important to remember for young children who post. Your fifth grader may be excited to post that picture of her winning exhibit at the science fair; however, geotagging can reveal the location of her school. Your phone might be recording the location of pictures you take without your knowledge. Be sure to turn off geotagging in your phone’s settings, and tell your kids to do the same.
- Your vacation plans
You may be saying “We’re off to Hawaii, yay us!” but what crooks hear is, “We’re leaving for vacation today, please come rob us!” Don’t post that you’ll be out of town, or post photos while you’re on vacation. Wait until you get back home to share your photos on social media.
- Your embarrassing moments
Before you post anything online, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “Would I want my boss or family to see this?” If the answer is no, don’t post it. You never know who will see your posting, and even if you delete it, someone could’ve taken a screenshot of it before you did. Educate your teens about this as well. It’s best to assume that everything is public; don’t post anything you wouldn’t want the world to see.
Don’t be a statistic
Most social networks allow you to control who sees your information, photos and posts. Set your accounts to private. Think about who will be seeing the information you post. If your privacy settings are not controlled, you will be giving information about yourself to anyone online.
Another way to keep personal information private: Don’t download apps, take quizzes or sign up for coupons that ask for your date of birth, social security number or address. In fact, a study by the University of Virginia found that of the top 150 applications on Facebook, 90 percent were given access to information they didn’t need for the app to function.
Also avoid accessing social media sites on public computers or free WiFi hot spots. Your login information can be captured and used to make false postings. Worse, because humans are creatures of habit and often tend to use the same password across multiple sites, scammers can use your logins to crack your passwords for secure sites. It’s important to change your social media passwords often to help protect from getting hacked.
References: Lifewire, Howstuffworks.com., Brandwatch, Techlicious, University of Virginia