Facebook, and social networking sites in general, are in an awkward stage between infancy and adulthood – mature in some ways, helpless in others. On the darker side of sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, scammers and identity thieves are drooling at the sight of this unchecked data playground. In contrast, most social networkers are addicted to all of the friendships they are creating and renewing.
There is no denying that Facebook and other social networking sites have a very luring appeal. You can sit in the comfort of your own home and suddenly have a thriving social life. You can look up old friends, make new ones, build business relationships and create a profile for yourself that highlights only your talents and adventures while conveniently leaving out all your flaws and troubles. It is easy to see why Facebook has acquired over 200 million users worldwide in just over five years. Which is why Facebook safety is still so immature: Facebook’s interface and functionality has grown faster than security can keep up.
Unfortunately, most people dive head first into this world of social connectedness without thinking through the ramifications of all the personal information that is now traveling at warp speed through cyberspace. It’s like being served a delicious new drink at a party, one that you can’t possibly resist because it is so fun and tempting and EVERYONE is having one. The downside? Nobody is thinking about the information hangover that comes from over-indulgence: what you put on the Internet STAYS on the internet, forever. And sometimes it shows up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, in the hands of a prospective employer or your boss’s inbox. All of the personal information that is being posted on profiles — names, birth dates, kids’ names, photographs, pet’s names (and other password reminders), addresses, opinions on your company, your friends and your enemies — all of it serves as a one-stop shop for identity thieves. It’s all right there in one neat little package and all a scammer has to do to access it is become your “friend”.
Follow these Five Facebook Safety Tips and save yourself the trouble…
5 Facebook Safety Tips
Facebook Safety Tip #1: If they’re not your friend, don’t pretend. Don’t accept friend requests unless you absolutely know who they are and that you would associate with them in person, just like real friends.
Facebook Safety Tip #2: Post only what you want made public. Be cautious about the personal information that you post on any social media site, as there is every chance in the world that it will spread beyond your original submission. It may be fun to think that an old flame can contact you, but now scammers and thieves are clambering to access that personal information as well.
Facebook Safety Tip #3: Manage your privacy settings. Sixty percent of social network users are unaware of their default privacy settings. Facebook actually does a good job of explaining how to lock your privacy down (even if they don’t set up your account with good privacy settings by default). To make it easy for you, follow these steps:
- Now it is time to customize your Facebook Privacy Settings so that only information you want shared, IS shared. This simple step will reduce your risk of identity theft dramatically.
Facebook Safety Tip #4: Keep Google Out. Unless you want all of your personal information indexed by Google and other search engines, restrict your profile so that it is not visible to these data-mining experts.
Facebook Safety Tip #5: Don’t unthinkingly respond to Friends in Distress. If you receive a post requesting money to help a friend out, do the smart thing and call them in person. Friend in Distress schemes are when a thief takes over someone else’s account and then makes a plea for financial help to all of your friends (who think that the post is coming from you). As with all matters of identity, verify the source.
Following these 5 Facebook Safety tips are a great way to prevent an information-sharing hangover.
The best way to protect you and your children from Online threats is to educate yourself about Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other online social networking utilities. We recently published the Facebook Safety Survival Guide (with Parents’ Guide to Online Safety) with that exact goal in mind. Social networking is immensely powerful and is here for the long run, but we must learn to harness and control it.
John Sileo is the award-winning author of Stolen Lives, Privacy Means Profit and the Facebook Safety Survival Guide. His professional speaking clients include the Department of Defense, the FTC, FDIC, Pfizer, Prudential and hundreds of other organizations that care about their information privacy. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.