10 tips for using social media sites safely

Lynn Wright / 10 March 2016

Keep your personal information safe with our 10 top tips for protecting your privacy on social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Social networking sites are great for keeping in touch and making new friends but they’re also boon for criminals looking to harvest personal information and scam victims. 

Sharing too much information on a social network may leave you at risk of identity theft – and even home burglary. 

Follow our top social networking tips to help safeguard your privacy.

1. Use strong passwords

Use a separate password for each social account. 

Make it at least eight digits long and a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. 

Choose a username that doesn’t help identify you, such as maryjsmith_1961.

Seven password mistakes to avoid.

2. Use a separate email

Create a separate email account to use with each social network. That way, your main email account is protected from any spam or phishing email you may receive.

Signs an email may be a scam.

3. Don’t get personal

Don’t post personal details, such as your phone number, home address, full name or date of birth. Avoid posting photos of your home that make it easy to identify where you live.

4. Don’t overshare

Never give details of upcoming holidays nor post holiday snaps while you’re away. Criminals scour social networks to find empty houses to burgle. 

Some insurers may refuse a claim if you’ve broadcast your vacant home on Facebook or other social accounts.

Eight warning signs that your identity has been stolen.

5. It’s not a popularity contest

Don’t accept every friend or follower request you get – only connect with people you know in real life or whose identity you know is genuine. 

Criminals create fake online accounts in order to befriend others and harvest personal information.

Where possible always follow social media accounts that have a white tick in a light blue circle next to their name. This means they are an officially verified account. 

You can follow the official Saga Facebook page here and the official Saga Twitter account here.

6. Make use of privacy settings

Read the site’s privacy policy and use its privacy and security settings to control who can see your personal information. Facebook, for example, offers controls over who can see your basic or full profile, your posts and photos and what appears in your timeline.

7. Control your profile

Don’t make your profile public. Use settings so that only friends can view your full profile.

Five scams to steal your identity.

8. Be wary of links

Avoid clicking on links in messages, tweets, posts, and online advertising. These may be links to viruses or other forms of malicious content.

9. Be careful of third-party apps

Polls, quizzes and games are often a fun part of some social networking websites, but by signing up to these you may be giving the companies who create them permission to access your profile. Use the privacy settings of your social networking website to avoid this.

Is your phone spying on you?

10. Don’t link accounts

Many websites and apps give you the option to ‘Log in with Facebook’, rather than creating a separate account. But by doing this, your social network may share all the information it holds about you, including the date and place of your birth, your email address and employment details, along with photos. 

Furthermore, with just one log-in for multiple sites, if one site is hacked, then all your accounts are compromised too.

For more tips and useful information, browse our technology articles.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.