How Safe Are You Using Social Media?

Have you ever given a company access to your Facebook profile in return for entry to a competition or a discount? As social networking becomes the norm, we are becoming more relaxed about sharing our personal details in order to engage with our favourite brands, products and services. But should we be more concerned about how much information we’re giving away and how it’s being used?

There’s an almighty amount of data available on many of us on our social media profiles, including contact details, birthday, photos, friends, interests and preferences. That data is not extremely valuable to legitimate companies, but can be a goldmine to cyber criminals who are interested in stealing identities.

What to do (and what not to post)

There are a number of steps that you can take to preserve your privacy as far as it’s possible without spoiling your enjoyment of social networking. Much of this is common sense but in an age where we browse from not just computers but many mobiles and devices, it is becoming easier to let our privacy guard down when we see a link or app that’s going to make us laugh, get rich or date a super model. There are so many instances where web fraudsters can gain access to our data its up to you to make sure you keep your web wits about you.

We’ve listed some steps to keep you safe when using Social Media:

1. They’re not always easy to master but you should take time to familiarise yourself with each social media website’s privacy controls and settings. These will enable you to manage who can see your profile information. You can use the settings to determine which of your friends or networks can see what on your profiles.

2. Similarly, you should make sure that you’re not inadvertently allowing others to see the email addresses or other details of your friends. Some social networking sites will ask you if they can search your email address book and send messages to your friends to announce that you’ve joined.

3. Take stock of how much personal information, such as the town in which you live, where you work and your date of birth, is posted on your social media pages. The more details you make available online, the easier it is for someone to steal your identity or perhaps even stalk you.

4. Be aware of the use of cookies that allow websites to use your profile information for marketing purposes. A number of high profile companies, including Google and Facebook, have been accused of tracking users online. However, there are software packages available, including Ghostery, Adblock Plus and Do Not Track Plus, that will help you find out which websites are using and transmitting your data to third party companies.

5. Some members of social media sites seem to think that their popularity is judged by the number of friends or followers they gather. However, you should be careful when accepting friend or contact requests as some may be hackers in disguise.

6. Be cautious of links sent from friends on your social media pages – they could be fraudulent messages sent by cyber criminals. If something looks suspicious, simply don’t click on it. You can always check if it’s from your friend by contacting them in another way.

7. In addition, you should also double check any third party apps that you add to your social media pages. These apps can also be used by cyber criminals to steal your personal information. If you ever sign up for an app then start getting spammy emails then be concerned that your details may already be circulating.

8. If an email seems to good to be true then it probably is. Recently we are seeing all sorts of spam from identical PayPal emails to Facebook friend requests. These all look genuine but are going to lead you into a spammy dark hole if you click the links. As for winning the Irish lottery or My Kapul having left you $10,0000 in his will, if you click these then you may actually deserve to be poked with the stupid stick.

The concept of privacy has taken quite a knock with the advent of social media. People think nothing of uploading information about their lives without considering who will see it and for what purposes they will use it. One development is that employers check social media profiles as standard before interviewing applicants to ensure that there’s nothing ‘unsuitable’ on them.
So before you sign up for your next social network or link a new app to Facebook or Twitter make sure you understand exactly what you may be giving away. You are in control of your own privacy online so don’t give up anything you would not be prepared to give to a stranger on the street.

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