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Social Media Security & Safety Tips

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Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, and YouTube enable people to post information about themselves and communicate with others around the world using forums, interest groups, blogs, chat rooms, email, and instant messaging. While social networking sites can increase a person's circle of friends, they also can increase exposure to people with less than friendly intentions.

Protect yourself by taking some common-sense precautions

  • Guard your financial and other sensitive information.
    Never provide or post your Social Security number, address, phone number, bank account or credit card numbers, or other personal information that could be used by criminals. Think twice about posting your location and other personal information, especially if you have your social networking profiles set to public viewing or readily accessible by large networks. This information can often be viewed in real time by search engines and social websites - criminals may be able to use this information to cause you harm. Consider your personal safety. Consider not posting your photo. It can be altered or broadcast in ways you may not be happy about. Make sure your screen name doesn't say too much about you. Be wary if a new friend wants to meet you in person. If you decide to meet them, meet in a public place, during the day, with friends you trust. And tell a responsible adult where you're going.

  • Think about how different social networking sites work before deciding to join a site.
    Some social networking sites allow only a defined community of users to access posted content; others allow anyone and everyone to view postings. Keep control over the information you post by restricting access to your page, and watch for updates to security and privacy policies. We have collected some links to help you learn more about privacy policies on the top social media sites.

  • Everything is now social. That puts you at risk.
    Picture social networking sites as billboards in cyberspace. Don’t disclose anything about yourself, your friends, or family members that you wouldn’t want to be made public. And remember that once information appears on a Web site, it might never be completely erased. What you say or do online has repurcussions offline, so be careful what you post.

  • Protect your computer. Protect your information.
    Think twice before clicking on links or downloading attachments. They may contain viruses or spyware that could damage your computer or steal your personal information – including your online passwords and account numbers. Some messages may “spoof,” or copy the email addresses of friends to fool you into thinking that they’re from them. Don’t click on links or download attachments in emails from strangers, and if you get an unexpected message from someone whose address you recognize, check with them directly before clicking on links or attachments. A spam filter can help reduce the number of unwanted emails you get. Anti-virus software, which scans incoming messages for troublesome files, and anti-spyware software, which looks for programs that have been installed on your computer and track your online activities without your knowledge, can protect you from online identity theft. Firewalls prevent hackers and unauthorized communications from entering your computer.