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Staying safe on social media

Jun 22, 2018

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You may take precautions with Internet banking and online purchases, but how about social media? Are you over-sharing or clicking links that put your computer at risk? Whether you already have accounts or are thinking of joining, here are some tips on staying safe on social media.

Social media is a global revolution with over a billion people worldwide using sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to stay in touch with friends and share experiences and photographs with family. 

The sites can be a great way to stay in touch not only with friends but with companies – we ourselves have several social media pages which we use to share useful and interesting information with our followers. However, it’s important to use them safely, so what are the risks of social media and how can you avoid them? 

Risks 

  • Encountering comments or receiving personal messages which are offensive, rude, violent or harassing in nature.
  • Identity theft. Fraudsters can use social media to obtain personal information to help put together the pieces of someone’s identity.
  • Phishing emails allegedly from social media sites, encouraging you to visit fraudulent websites.
  • People hacking your account or your friends’ accounts – which can then be used to make inappropriate or phishing posts on your wall and other people’s walls.
  • Viruses or spyware contained within messages, links or photographs.
  • Disclosing too much private information and opening yourself up to risks such as theft – e.g. posting that you are on holiday advertises that your home is empty (if you do so and you get burgled, your insurance company could reject your claim).
  • Predators – fake profiles where people lie about their identity in order to form friendships or relationships with people online.

How to stay safe

  • Be careful about entering any personal, identifying information about yourself - for example, your phone number or pictures identifying your address or birthday.
  • Use strong passwords which do not include personal information such as date of birth. Read more about strong passwords here.
  • Use different passwords for your social media accounts – that way if one gets hacked, they can’t hack all of your other accounts.
  • Learn how to use the site’s privacy settings properly. You can amend your profile to keep it closed and allow only your friends to view it; this restricts strangers’ access to your profile. Don’t accept friend requests from people you do not know.
  • Don't post your holiday dates or photos while you are away. Social networking sites have become a favourite research tool for burglars.
  • Be careful about tagging where you are or activating geo-location on your account as this will highlight when you are away from home, as well as informing people of your whereabouts.
  • If you have social media apps on your phone, make sure you password protect your phone so if you lose it and someone finds it, they can’t access your accounts.
  • Be on your guard against phishing scams, which can include fake friend requests and posts from individuals or companies inviting you to visit other pages or sites. Read more about spotting phishing scams here.
  • Use a separate email address. It’s a good idea to set up a separate email address for your social media accounts – that way your main account is protected from any spam or phishing emails you may receive via your social media account.
  • Make sure you have effective and updated antivirus and antispyware running on your computer, as well as a firewall. These will protect your computer if you click on something with a virus attached.  

For more information on staying safe online, visit www.getsafeonline.org

This article looks at how you can protect yourself as an adult online. If you would like more information on keeping your children safe online, visit www.thinkuknow.co.uk

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