Social media has become an easy, convenient way to share and receive information, instantly. It can be extremely tempting to take to sites, such as Twitter or Facebook, with life updates, achievements or pictures. But how much is really too much? You may be surprised to learn which small and seemingly insignificant details a cybercriminal may be able to gather online and use against you.
Follow these 6 tips when using social media to ensure that something as simple as a Facebook post doesn’t lead to the theft of your identity.
1. Avoid using your social media profile to create new online accounts
Third party websites will often prompt you to link your social media accounts to “simplify” the sign up process. Although this may be convenient by allowing you to avoid making an additional account; it also means that if a hacker compromises your primary account, they may also have access to all of your accounts.
It is best practice to use a different user name and password combination for each of your online accounts, so that if one of them is hacked, the others may still have a chance of being secure.
2. Only Add People That You Have Actually Met Offline
Social media is a fun place to connect with those that we care about. It is also frequently used as a venue to meet new people. A new connection may not only be able to see many additional profile details (that were formerly private), they may also be able to phish for personal information about you.
While it may seem obvious to avoid adding anyone that you don’t know outside of social media, you must also exercise caution when someone you’re already connected with sends you a duplicate request. Many times this request could be coming from a fraudulent account that the respective friend knows nothing about. In this case, it is best to reach out to your friend directly to confirm that the request did actually come from them.
3. Even Small Personal Details Are Significant
Many times, sharing information online may seem harmless, but in reality you may be revealing small bits of information about yourself that a hacker is looking for. Each piece of information you offer up about yourself can be used like a puzzle piece by a cybercriminal. They may be able to gather enough small details that they can link them together and formulate a fairly accurate portrayal of your identity. One such example: If you wish your mother happy birthday on her Facebook page, you may also be disclosing her maiden name – this detail may also be used by a hacker to answer one of the most common security questions.
Other items to avoid sharing online include:
- Your full name
- Date of birth
- Birth location
- Anniversary date
- Pet names
- School mascot
- Favorite movie
- Make/model of car
4. Utilize Custom Security Settings
We’ve already established why it’s important to avoid accepting connection requests from people you do not know, but it is also important to utilize the privacy and security settings available on most social networking sites. Most sites give users full control over what information they make available to the public. For example, Twitter allows you to protect your tweets so that only people you follow can see what you post (see example image above).
5. Ensure Your Location is Turned Off
It can be tempting to show off your vacation to your family and friends online, but it is vital that you remember to keep your location turned off. Revealing your location can not only give criminals the means to cause you physical harm, but could also allow cybercriminals to gather information on frequent places you visit. Additionally, enabling your location when you’re at home can reveal your billing address, which may be utilized to commit credit card fraud.
6. Pause Before Posting
Lastly, take a moment and think before you post something on the Internet. Remember that what you post online can never truly go away. Consider if the information you are posting could leave you, your family, or your friends vulnerable to physical harm or identity theft.