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Social media, which includes personal connection platforms like Facebook and Instagram, as well as professional networking sites such as LinkedIn, are designed for sharing. But thieves can piece together potentially damaging clues about when you’ll be away from home, which loved ones or hobbies might make up your passwords, and more. Protecting yourself starts with learning what’s harmless and what’s not.

 

Maintain Some Mystery

In the age of (figuratively) baring it all to the world, being discreet feels almost old-fashioned. But it could save you time, trouble, and money.

  • Go vague. It may seem innocuous, but data like your birthday and where your kids go to school shouldn’t be available to the public. Even listing your exact city can lead to vulnerability. Be sure that the outside world has only vague details—listing your “lives in” information as “North Carolina,” rather than Salisbury, for example.
  • Keep the past private. Professional networking sites are designed, in part, to help people explore new job opportunities. And that requires a resume, right? Well, yes and no. Keep your resume ambiguous enough that it can’t be used to help an identify thief. Potential (legitimate) employers will be in touch if they’re interested in knowing more about your work experience.
  • Be discriminating. Sure, you’ll feel like the most popular kid in class when you have tons of contacts. But the more people you allow into your private life, the higher the odds that something will go wrong. If your circle is already large, ensure that only a trusted few are privy to the really important stuff. Cat videos? Share with everyone. A link to the resort you’re visiting next week? Only your best friend gets that info.
  • Shield your location. When left intact, location services on your phone and other electronic devices can show your exact spot as part of any post you make. Deactivate them to prevent over-sharing.

 

Know the Rules

A little investigation before you click, hit “post,” or agree to accept anything online can prevent damage down the road.

  • Be strict about settings. Privacy and security settings ensure that only the people you select can see certain posts. The stricter you are (ie: ensuring only “friends” can see your posts, as opposed to strangers or even those marked “acquaintances”), the better.
  • What’s the message? Hackers can try to get into your accounts by posing as a friend via a private message. If you get a message from someone you don’t know, ignore it. If you get one that seems strange from someone you DO know, get in touch offline to ensure it’s really from him or her.
  • Don’t click. Similarly, be very cautious about clicking on any links embedded in tweets and posts, as that’s a prime way for hackers to strike.
  • Avoid endangering your job. Many employers today monitor employees’ social media activity and even have written rules about what actions (think racist or off-color comments) could get you fired. Be aware of company policy.
  • Investigate third-party apps. You finally download that popular cyber game, but they’re asking for access to your account. Before you agree to anything, do your due diligence. Giving access to the wrong third-party app opens up a buffet of info that can be used against you.

 

Are You Exposing Others?

The details you post and the malware you allow into your computer can hurt not only you, but the people connected to you online. Here’s how:

  • Specifics=vulnerability. Tagging someone in a post about an upcoming event (“Can’t wait to see this band in concert with Jane Smith tomorrow night!”) broadcasts that neither you nor your friend will be home then. Wait until the event has passed before talking about it online.
  • Thieves who are able to figure out your patterns and personality can pretend to be you when contacting people in your online circle. A phishing email to your friend that mentions a specific activity you love sounds a lot more authentic than a generic attempt.
  • Log out. If you use public computers—at the library, perhaps—to access your profiles, make it a habit to double check that you’ve logged out before leaving the computer. That way, the next person who sits down can’t target your friends, lock you out of your own account, or worse.

 

If you believe your social media account has been compromised, contact the host site for help. If the breach involves financial deception, F&M Bank may be able to help, as we offer multiple resources to customers who’ve experienced cyber fraud. 

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