Facebook Safety: Waking up with a Social Media Hangover

Facebook safety has a direct correlation to your business’s bottom line. Facebook, and social media 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 myopically intoxicated with all the friendships they are creating and renewing.

There is no denying that Facebook and other social media sites have a very alluring 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. That 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, birthdates, 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”.

Recently my friend, who was an avid Facebook user, gave it up.  He had acquired 2,000 friends and he just couldn’t manage it anymore.  Of course, I’m thinking, “Two thousand friends?”  How do you come to personally know two thousand people over the course of 40 years on earth?  The answer is easy:  he didn’t know them all.  People accept “friend” invitations all the time from people they don’t actually know.  Who doesn’t like people seeking out their friendship? But consider this: there is an increasing likelihood that the “friends” you don’t know might also be con artists who are simply trying to access your information. Every time you allow a stranger into your profile, picture yourself with a morning-after hangover.  Follow the Five Facebook Safety Tips and save yourself the trouble.

5 Facebook Safety Tips

  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.
  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 propagate.  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.
  3. Manage your privacy settings. Sixty percent of social networkers are unaware of their default privacy settings (how Facebook sets them for you). The simple task of setting them to your standards can reduce your risk of identity theft dramatically.  Take a few minutes and lock down your profiles by visiting the privacy tab of your account settings. Understand what part of your profile is visible to friends and non-friends alike.
  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.
  5. Don’t 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).

Following these 5 Facebook Safety tips is a great way to prevent an information-sharing hangover.

Image credit: Rajesh Sundaram

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