Social media has become incredibly popular. Many people have accounts on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, or LinkedIn, and many share information, photos, and other things with their friends through these sites. But they may not realize how much they’re sharing or that strangers can access some of this information. In fact, some people never think to apply some of the basics of online identity theft prevention to their social media posts and profiles. It’s important to realize that, even if you have restricted your posts to certain people, it may be possible that others can see and access some of your information and use it to steal your identity.
What to Keep Secret
When you sign up for a social media profile, there are some things you almost always have to provide, such as your first and last name, your email, and your birthdate. Most sites allow you to keep some of this information hidden, but you still have to provide it. However, besides the email address, you aren’t actually required to provide real information. You can use a fake last name or a fake birthday if you want. Just make a note of this information in case you need it later. Most sites will send a confirmation link to your email address that you must click on to activate the account, so you must enter a valid email address. However, to avoid giving spammers and others your real email, create an email address you use only for things like social media or mailing lists. Never add your address or phone number to your profile.
Think about your Profile Picture
Posting a profile picture is almost a requirement with social networks now, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a picture of you. You can use a picture of your pets, a piece of artwork you’ve done, or a picture you’ve applied different filters to. If you have a professional photo that you know is being used elsewhere on the internet, there’s no reason not to use it, especially if you’re creating a work-related profile on a site like LinkedIn. Here are two things when considering what picture to use:
- Does it give away any information about me that I would rather keep public?
- Would I want my mother or children seeing this picture?
Almost all social media sites have privacy settings you can use to help with online identity theft protection. However, they usually are not set by default. When you create a new profile, make certain to look at the privacy settings and set them to at least friends-only. You may want to set some items, such as your birthday, to private. Remember that even if you choose not to display your birth date on your profile, some social media sites will announce it’s your birthday to your friends, so you may need to find and turn off that setting as well.
Do Not Accept All Friend Requests
It goes without saying that you should never accept friend requests from people you don’t know, but what about acquaintances and friends of friends you might have met once or twice? If you don’t know the person well enough that you would be willing to share information face to face, you may not want to add them to your profile.
Be Careful What You Post
While it may be very tempting to post about your upcoming vacation, remember that this is telling people when your home will be empty. Be careful when mentioning things like this, especially if you haven’t adjusted your profile privacy settings or if you have people on your friends list who you don’t know very well.
Protecting your Family from Cyberbullying
Cyber bullying is a trend that has become more and more concerning to parents over the last decade. Instead of teasing or bullying a child in public, kids have taken to using social media sites to do so. Bullying on social media sites is just as hurtful as physical bullying. While it may be easy enough to block a bully on a site like Facebook, if they have access to your personal information, they may start bullying through email, text, or even appear at your house. This is why it’s very important for children to understand that they must keep their information private. If you teach your kids online identity theft prevention techniques now, they will habitually use them later.
Check Your Credit
Finally, keep an eye on your credit. The importance of credit monitoring extends beyond keeping your credit cards safe. It can also alert you to online identity theft and help you understand where people are getting your personal information. Checking your credit score regularly, as well as locking down your social media profiles, are both great methods of online identity theft prevention.
Are you a victim of ID theft? What steps did you take to lower its damages to your credit? Share them with us by posting in the comments section below.