Most internet users have some sort of involvement in social media. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram are particularly popular.
While they have a huge amount to offer, the dangers of social networking sites should also be taken into consideration when setting up a profile.
To make sure you get the most out of your chosen social media sites without risking your personal information or safety, we’ve put together a short guide on how to stay safe on social media.
1. Don’t share too much
If you post information about your upcoming holiday, for example, or any other time when you might not be at home, you increase your risk of being burgled if someone can work out where you live.
Keep identifying details – such as your location – to a minimum, and don’t broadcast the fact your home is going to be empty on social media.
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Don’t advertise your home to burglars on social media
2. Limit your audience
There are ways to limit the number of people who can see your social media posts to only those approved by you.
On Facebook, only accept friend requests from people you know.
On Twitter, it is possible to “lock” your profile to stop it being seen by just anybody (which is in fact the default setting).
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3. Don’t be too trusting
Criminals and other unsavoury characters often try to make social media users spread links to dodgy websites, often by hacking their accounts.
Just because one of your friends or family members’ accounts appears has recommended you click on a link doesn’t mean it’s genuine: they might have been hacked.
Stay safe - and keep others safe - by reporting any social media links that ring alarm bells to the social media site itself.
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4. Beware attachments
It is also important to exercise caution when it comes to attachments such as pictures that you are sent: they could contain viruses. Don’t open anything unless you’re sure it’s safe to do so.
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5. Improve your security
Installing up-to-date anti-virus software is a must if you want to stay safe on social networks. The government-run Cyber Streetwise scheme has some recommendations of programs here.
Make sure you use strong, hard to guess, passwords, and use a different one for each site.
Some sites let you add a phone number to your profile so you get text message warnings whenever changes are made on your social media account: this can help alert you to potential hackers.
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6. The internet remembers
Finally, be careful with what you say on social media. Even if you delete a comment or post that you have thought better of, there is likely to be a record of it online somewhere.
For example, if your password incorporates the name of your first pet or you have any security questions that ask your mother's maiden name, think twice about announcing seemingly innocuous details like this on social media - you never know who might be watching.
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