Ways of Protecting Your ID on Social Media

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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:

  1. Does it give away any information about me that I would rather keep public?
  2. Would I want my mother or children seeing this picture?

Privacy Settings

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.

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Published by Amy Johnson

Amy Johnson is an active blogger who is fond of sharing interesting finance related articles to encourage people to manage and protect their finances.

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22 Comments

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  1. This is a great list of points to protecting your identity especially in light of the incredible explosion of social media, which is quite frankly a phenomenon. Some of the points you mentioned can be covered by having a good identity theft protection product such as LifeLock or BullGuard. But again you brought up a lot of great points which are geared a lot towards college students. Thank you for a very informative post.

    1. Hi Irving,
      Having a good identity theft protection product is a good recommendation. There are so many options available to choose from these days. Still, common sense needs to pervail at some point. I’m often amazed at the personal information that I seen shared these days.

  2. Hi Sherryl,
    Privacy settings are most important on social media, because even the simplest and most unexpected photo, info, video or even your words can deteriorate your reputation after several years.
    you have to be careful who sees your updates or tagged info, especially the tagged stuff because they are out of your control, and kids don’t know that, even us we tend to forget that sometimes.
    Many thanks and Best wishes!

    1. Hi Mitch,
      Thanks for dropping by. I agree with both you and Amy that we need to be extremely careful what information we share online. It’s a scary world. I don’t have the link to the article right now but people need to be especially careful when sharing photos of children. The last I knew, the default on most mobile devices (with GPS capabilities) is set to tag photos with the location. That’s a dangerous feature that not everyone is aware of.

  3. We are in the age where everybody loves to use social media to connect with their loved ones, everybody needs to read this post and be aware of the risks of not protecting your identity on social platforms. Thanks Amy for this informative post.

  4. Hi Amy Johnson thanks for posting such a great article. I think that now a days every one has an ID on a social networking site. These points that you had listed are very important for every one who are on a social networking site. I think that the points you had shared are more than enough to protect my ID on social media

  5. Hi Amy,
    Do Not Accept All Friend Requests- Yes i completely agree with you , lot of unwanted messages also some hackers are available in social media. These steps really helpful for everyone, who need to use their social id in professional way. Thanks for the useful article
    Regards,
    Agriya Olivier

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to let us know that you enjoyed Amy’s guest post. I value your input and I apologize for not replying to you sooner but I’ve been dealing with some personal issues.

  6. Sherryl — I think I haven’t been as diligent as I should be. I think it’s too late to use a special email address now as I’ve registered for so many sites with my business email, which I realize now is probably a mistake. I don’t know if my email getting hacked a few months ago was because it was so widely available or if I was the victim of a brute force attack, but it was painful to delete thousands of emails nonetheless.

    1. Jeannette,
      I made the same mistake as you about using my business email. Thankfully, my anti-spam filter does a great job of identifying junk mail. (The Norton Security Suite that I use has a great filter for Outlook.) I still get a ton of junk email but I rarely see it catch anything that shouldn’t go in there.

      (Thanks for dropping by. I’m woefully behind in commenting because my father-in-law recently passed away but I’ll be by to visit your blog soon. I’m interested in reading your post on LinkedIn headlines!)

  7. Hi Sherryl,

    This is a good topic that can easily be extended into a series. People are interested in those things and you provided a good starting point. You can collect different information about this topic and write another post again.

    Well, I didn’t realize spammers may come from social media, too. Unpleasant discovery. Now, I need to revise and modify my FB profile. In the beginning I thought it is better to be honest and give true information about yourself. Then I started to change some things there.
    However, I didn’t think of creating a special email only for social media. This is a good tactic and I will do it.

    I am glad you had this idea of writing about online identity protection. It is very useful to know more about these things.

    Have a wonderful day

    1. Hi Silviu,
      First, let me apologize for not replying to you sooner. (I also owe you a reply on another comment that you left for me.) Plus, I need to get by your blog soon! (On a personal note, we recently lost my father-in-law and commenting has not been my top priority.)

      I’m in the same boat as you when it comes to not using a special email address for social media. I’ve known “better” than to do that for a while but for some reason, it’s still something that I continue to ignore.

      Thanks for letting me know that you enjoyed Amy’s guest post.

  8. Excellent guest post, thanks for writing it, Amy, and thanks for sharing it with us, Sherryl 🙂

    I am somewhat too relaxed about adding FB friends… no, i don’t grant friendship to strangers (there’s no Friend button on my profile for you to click if we don;t have common friends 😉 but i don’t treat my FB friends as real friends either. I have found that having lists on FB (i think they are called interest groups now) can help me manage who sees what in my feed… and in the same time, i can keep an eye on high-school friends and acquaintances without keeping in touch in person.

    To my surprise, i am strict on connecting with people on LI, too! Provided it’s a professional network, from time to time “strangers” can contact me there as a result of group discussion or something. However, i am SO surprised how many people (tens every day!) invite me to connect with the default message… i guess it’s a number game there as well. I politely ignore 🙂

    I have never been a victim of identity theft but i should be more careful sometimes. Thanks for the reminder!

    1. Diana,
      Thanks for letting me know that you enjoyed Amy’s post and for sharing your thoughts with us.

      I love FB lists. Without them, I would miss a lot of updates from people who I really want to hear from because their posts and shares typically get buried in my news feed. (Like you, many of them are friends from high school or past acquaintances that I want to stay in touch with.)

      I’m also surprised that so many people send LI connection requests without personalizing them. If we have a lot of common connections, I will accept their request but if they don’t, I ignore them too.

  9. Hi Sherryl,

    Excellent guest post to have on your blog 🙂

    Hi Amy,

    You’ve shared some great tips here that need to be seen by as many as possible.

    Fortunately when I set my accounts up I wanted to secure them as best I could so I have them all with the secure browser settings, hide as many details as aren’t needed to be seen and have extra secure passwords…. Not even I can remember them 😉

    Great point to make about Birthdays though, as that’s one area I haven’t covered. Sure I don’t show them but they are correct and I do see birthday alerts….

    Cyber bullying is a big one right now and it seems that people are now taking note and starting to get things in place. However I don’t think we’ll ever stop it altogether, which is a shame.

    I’ve seen a couple of cases on TV where kids have taken their lives due to it and that’s heart breaking, it really is. However it’s not just kids doing it, we’ve seen examples of so called adults doing it as well, especially in the work place…

    Great tips Amy, thanks for sharing them 🙂
    Barry

    1. Barry,
      Thanks for dropping by and letting us know that you enjoyed Amy’s guest post. I’ve been concentrating on my #FridayFinds series lately and I’ve been opening my blog to guest bloggers. I think it’s a good way to bring some new topics to my blog.

      Cyber bullying has grown to be a very real threat and you’re right, it’s not only kids that are guilty of it.

  10. Hey Jeevan Jacob John. Thanks for appreciating the post. I too have some restrictions on making new friends:) Thanks again..Cheers 🙂

  11. Hey Amy,

    Great points here. As bloggers, we have to be extra careful of what we post online (since we post about our personal life online – the events we have attended, our experiences, and other things. Of course, in our blogs, it is hard to avoid mentioning our lives. Our stories make our blog posts unique).

    Like they say, never post anything online that you don’t want to appear on Huffington Post! (it is something like that, isn’t it? :D).

    Not accepting all friend requests, good point.I am very strict on accepting friend requests. If I don’t know the person in some way (blogging or personal), I am not going to accept it. I have made a few exceptions of course – in the case that we have many common friends.

    Anyways, thank you for the post 🙂 Appreciate the tips!

    1. Hi Jeevan,
      You raise a good point about bloggers sharing parts of their personal lives. That’s a very important part of building relationships online but it can open us up to privacy issues if we’re not careful.

      Not wanting what we post online line to appear on the Huffington Post is a great analogy! I also always think, “would I want my mother to see this?”. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. I’m the same way you are about accepting friend requests from people who have common friends. The fact that we both do that serves as a reminder that people are looking at our connections too. We all need to be diligent about keepin that in mind too.