Today, more than 79% of the U.S. population is active on social networks, but many of those people have no idea how to stay safe on social media. Users openly share data, often use poorly protected passwords, and each year millions of people are the victim of social media accounts hacks, had personal information stolen or fell prey to online scams.
Learning how to stay safe on social media is especially important with the increasing prevalence of integrated payment systems and apps, phone verification, and touch technology. When someone steals an account, they likely have access to bank or credit card information, home or work addresses, and other very personal information that could be used to steal the victim’s identity.
These 5 tips will help you to protect yourself on social media.
Use Privacy and Security Settings to Protect Your Information from Social Media Phishing and Scams
Social media accounts offer a few forms of security and privacy settings to help users two-factor authenticate their accounts and secure who can see information to tighten social media safety measures.
Facebook has some of the most sophisticated safety measures, with controls that allow users to update how different groups of friends see their profile and information. Rather than sharing information to everyone, limiting your account to a select few very close friends, or not sharing personal information like baby photos at all is vital to combat social media phishing and social media scams.
So, what information should users keep private to close-friends-only?
- Information regarding location
- Home or work addresses
- Phone numbers and emails
- birth date and other private information
Why? Even information about a user’s home-town, maiden name, and birth-date can be used to answer privacy questions on bank financial platforms and other websites. If the information isn’t kept private, users are unprotected from social media scams.
Stay Safe on Social Media With Strong Passwords and Secure Accounts
Strong passwords will protect online accounts from being hacked, which help a great deal in terms of identity theft, social media scams, and account takeovers by hackers.
Tips for a good password:
- Use a unique mix of letters, numbers, and signs
- Have at least 10 characters
- Change your password every 6 months
Most people can benefit from using a password manager which will automatically handle this type of security for you, so you don’t have to remember passwords. It’s also important to use a different password on each of your accounts to ensure that if someone gets into one, they don’t have access to all of them. This will maximize the ability to be safe on social media across any applications.
Manage Your Friends and Followers
Everyone receives friend and follower requests, but users should be careful of who they accept. For example, if strangers add you, they could be attempting to scam you, and others might be bots. If a user is able to trust the people on their friends’ list, it is one less thing to worry about.
What should users stay away from?
- Accounts with no information
- Accounts with only a few friends
- Accounts that immediately start sending you messages with no real purpose, especially in broken English
- Accounts that start sending you links, promising things, asking for investment, or promising love
Most social media platforms, like Instagram and Facebook, are now spending quite a bit of time and money in ensuring that their users are protected from bots and social media scams. However, users should always exercise a certain amount of caution when accepting friend requests and interacting with others to stay safe on social media.
Watch out for Social Media Scams and Phishing
Social media scams and social media phishing are two of the most common problems on social media platforms today. The links used for these types of attacks normally attempt to steal either your identity, steal money, or work to spread a bot or virus to your network of colleagues, friends, and family.
Scams and phishing tactics include:
- Chain letters
- Quick requests for money, sometimes from friends who have just added you from a new account
- Links to quizzes and games that require your phone number or bank details first
- Links to photos and click-bait article titles that take you off the network (likely phishing scams)
- Shortened URLs, which can be used to hide malware and viruses on a link
- Pay an upfront fee to work from home/make money
- Sweepstakes and lottery winnings (these are never distributed through social media, even if you play)
- Sudden romantic interests asking for money
Some of these social media scams are harmless, but others can be used to actively steal a great deal of information and money. It’s important to be careful, to double check anything before you click on it, and to be careful when and how users give information to a third-party site.
Research Everything Before You Click and Share Data
To really stay safe social media, users should do their homework before accepting, clicking, or sharing digital content. This means paying attention to what’s being sent and shared, evaluating sources, and taking a close look into anything that seems off or slightly suspicious.
For example, if a friend asks for money under suspicious circumstances, you could follow through on this by calling them to ask about their request. Another example is, if a friend you thought was already a Facebook connection adds you, you could call them to ask about it.. This might feel awkward, but it will prevent potential hacking, spamming or phishing issues.
Similarly, if you see an astounding bit of news from a website you don’t know, it’s almost always better to look it up through your own Google search instead of clicking on a link. If you’re being prompted to fill in data for a quiz, you could look up the quiz and see if it’s reliable (or better yet, never give information to a quiz app).
Taking the time to look into things that are suspicious or even slightly questionable will help users and their friends and family stay safe on social media, even as scam tactics change and become more sophisticated.
The Bottom Line
The internet can be a dangerous place and social media is no exception. Taking the time to protect your data and to use the security tools provided to you by the app to control how and where you share data is the best way to protect yourself online. You should also take the time to periodically review your social media accounts, change passwords, and to review any apps or plugins that have access to your account, so you can maintain long-term security. The internet can be relatively safe so long as you’re cognizant of risks and take steps to mitigate them.