Social networking safety is often overlooked. We all absentmindedly give sensitive information to people that we don't know. This leaves us vulnerable to both fraud and reputational damage. But instead of waiting for disaster to strike, we all should follow a few simple rules to keep our identity safe.
Quick Guide to Your Social Networking Safety
Know how much is too much
It’s obviously a terrible idea to post your social security number, personal phone number, credit card information, or home address anywhere on the Internet. You never know who will be able to see that information, even if you are sharing it with a closed network of friends.
There are, however, some lesser known pieces of information that you may not want to share. The city you were born in can help thieves steal your identity, especially when coupled with your legal name. It’s also a popular verification question for online banking accounts, so it's best keep this information private.
Optimize your privacy settings
Never trust the default settings. Social media networks aren’t designed with your privacy in mind – you’ll always have to make manual adjustments. Go into your privacy settings, and see where things are set. Never leave any personal information set to be viewed by the public, even if it’s as mundane as your date of birth. If you’re a stickler for privacy, there are many things you can set to only be visible by you, including your posts.
Beware of people attempting to connect with you
Anyone can pretend to be whoever they want on the Internet. At the time, it’s not possible to enforce a code where everyone must use their real photo and real name either. So if someone seems odd to you, it's best to investigate them before accepting their request to connect rather than accepting right away. Online scammers present themselves as honest people with an intention to gain access to your personal information for nefarious purposes. When in doubt, ignore the request or block the user in question.
Respect your company’s social media policies
Your company may have specific rules about what work related events and activities they do and do not want discussed on social media. While some of them may seem odd, it’s best to follow them without questioning them. Employees can unknowingly leak private company information, placing it into the hands of competitors (or worse) - even the army isn't an exception. So make sure you’re in the clear before you post lengthy updates about your workday.
Exercise caution with your professional presence
Networks like LinkedIn are great for creating professional opportunities. If you’re looking to further your career, an active presence on LinkedIn is a must. Just think twice before you post your resume. It might seem counterintuitive to limit the visibility of your resume on the platform you’re using to make career connections, but you’re running the risk of having your resume stolen if you don't. You’ll be putting your work history into the hands of complete strangers. Instead, post brief summaries and general information. Save the full resume for a secure submission when the time comes to do so.
Always trust your gut instinct
Ultimately, you should trust your gut. If you post close to none of your personal information on the Internet, you’re significantly reducing the risks to your personal security. Remember that you don’t have to make something public if you only want to relay it to a small group of individuals. If people want to know something, they can just ask or you can send them a private message about it.