Trailblazer News

Five Steps to Staying Safe on Social Networks

Posted on August 30, 2012

The star of every social networking site is Y-O-U. Your profile is often filled with extensive details about your history including your birth date, employment history, and hometown. But some social networks are taking things a step further. They know where you are right now.

Location-based mobile apps like Foursquare and Gowalla turn “checking in” into a game. Users can earn points, badges, and “mayorships” for each venue they visit and share with the world. Venues include restaurants, movie theaters, offices, gyms, and more. In fact, users can create a public venue for anything—and they often do. Even for personal home addresses.

Don’t feel pressured by social networks to share everything or constantly grow your number of friends. Here are five safety tips to follow across any social site:

  1. Be generic.A picture of a beach is safer than a personal photo in which you are easily identified. Use an initial or nickname instead of a last name, and avoid giving out phone numbers and email addresses.
  2. Run a tight ship.Familiarize yourself with privacy or security settings on every network. Customize your settings so you feel safe. Once a month, browse your list of friends and unfriend or block any suspicious followers.
  3. Be smart about sharing.Don’t check in to a venue until you are about to leave. Never check in to your home, apartment, or hotel.
  4. Think before you click. As with email, if you receive a suspicious Facebook message or tweet with a link from a friend, don’t click it. The account was probably hacked.
  5. Create complicated passwords.Prevent hackers from taking over your profile—and possibly your identity. Don’t use a birth date, PIN (personal identification number), or the same password as your bank account.

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