With the ubiquitousness of smartphones and social media, it’s easy to stay connected with faraway friends and family, send instant messages, and announce special events of our lives. In doing so, we share enough personal information that can compromise our privacy and can lead to identity theft. Hence, it is important to protect yourself from being a victim when using these sites.
Here, we list top ways to keep personally identifiable information safe on social media and protect you from identity theft.
1. Consider About Me field as optional
Facebook and other social media sites give an option to fill information about yourself that includes details like date of birth, school name, where you went to school and others. Just because these fields are given it doesn’t mean you need to fill them out. Consider leaving them blank or provide generic information. For instance, while mentioning the state of residence leave city blank so that others do not get to know where exactly you live. This will help you stay safe from identity theft.
2. Diligently Use Privacy Settings
Social media sites give the option to limit post-viewing, take out time to check these settings, try different options and control your data privacy. Not only this you can even create a custom list to allow viewing posts.
Platform Specific Recommendations:
- To review and adjust your privacy settings on the Facebook visit: https://www.facebook.com/help/238318146535333?helpref=hc_global_nav. This link will help you know how to create a custom list, block users and stay safe.
- If you use Twitter for a private conversation to prevent searching using the phone number and email address enable, “Protect your tweets” box, and limit your post visibility. To know more about it visit: https://help.twitter.com/en/safety-and-security#ads-and-data-privacy
- If you share personal images on Instagram set your account as private. To know how to do so visit: https://help.instagram.com/448523408565555
Note: Privacy settings translate between site, this means even though a photo is marked as private on social media they can still be indexed publicly in Google Image Search. Hence, stop posting on social media if you don’t want it to be found.
3. Be selective when accepting a friend request
In the early days of social media users used to compete to get a greater number of connections due to which even without knowing a person they used to accept each and every request. But today, people have become smart and they know the more connection you have more difficult it is to control information leak. Therefore, to avoid identity theft and similar problems always add only known people on your social media. And don’t hesitate from using the block features when the situation arises.
4. Be discreet about your location
A certain piece of information like your location, driving license number, phone number, where you are going should never be posted on social media. Telling people about where you have checked in might sound fun but for threat actors. You being away from your home is a golden opportunity that they can take advantage of.
5. Log out when not accessing social media account
Whether using public or private PC make it a ritual to log out from your social media account. Logging out helps stay one step ahead of bad guys or anyone who wants to access your social media account without consent.
6. Create strong, complicated passwords
A strong password always plays a crucial role in protecting your account from being hacked. Use a combination of numbers, words, special characters, and upper- and lowercase letters, while creating a password. Avoid using birthdate, name of pets, family member name, and other personal details while creating a password.
7. Use 2-factor authentication to prevent unauthorized logins
Earlier using the phone numbers for social networking profile was avoided. But nowadays to secure account a phone number is a must. As it can be used to receive a text message to confirm identity when you log in. This process is known as 2-factor authentication. It helps to keep the account secure from unauthorized access.
To set up two-factor authentication on various social networking sites visit the links provided below:
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/help/909243165853369/?helpref=hc_fnav
- Twitter: https://help.twitter.com/en/managing-your-account/two-factor-authentication
- Instagram: https://help.instagram.com/566810106808145
8. Report Duplicate Friend Requests
If you receive a friend request from someone who is already your friend or follower, report it to social networking. As there’s a possibility that the account is hacked, or scammers are using the cloned bogus account to collect your personally identifiable information by being your friend.
To report an imposter on the Facebook visit: https://www.facebook.com/help/174210519303259
9. Avoid using social credentials to sign in to third party sites
Most third-party sites give the option to register using Google, Twitter or Facebook credentials instead of setting up new usernames and passwords. These shortcuts are appealing but think twice before falling for them. By using this option, you might end up disclosing all personal information about yourself. In worst-case scenario, if someone hijacks your social profile they get access to these third-party accounts as well. In addition to this avoid quizzes and games that need access to profile information. Because they can use the information to create a list of spammers.
10. Use passcodes for your devices
Always secure your smartphone with a passcode as it intervenes bad guys from accessing your device when you are not around. Besides, if you lose your smartphone a passcode can help secure your data. A passcode helps to keep your personally identifiable information, account details, apps protected. The same practice should be followed when using a laptop or desktop.
11. Limit social media sharing
Avoid sharing too much on social media and pay attention to posts, pictures and other details you share. Besides this keep a check on your kid’s social media account and privacy settings. So that unknowingly he doesn’t share confidential information.
12. Be cautious of free Wi-Fi
There is nothing called a free lunch. You always get what you pay for, if you get anything for free then there’s a catch same rule applies to public Wi-Fi. This means if you are accessing the Internet through public Wi-Fi then any with the right tools can eavesdrop on your online activity. Therefore, never login to any financial site when using public Wi-fi.
Therefore, to stay safe always use a password-protected Wi-Fi network. However, if you have a habit of using public Wi-Fi then use a VPN to encrypt your online activity so that no one can see what you are doing.
13. Close unused accounts
If you are not using online accounts, then consider closing it. Because in case of online breach hackers can access personal information stored on unused accounts. An old email account can have your financial or personal information, and this could lead to identity theft. Therefore, you should always close unused accounts and store less personal information on any online accounts. This is the best way to stay keep personally identifiable information safe on social networks.
In addition to the above 13 tips remember the Internet is permanent. This means any personally identifiable information uploaded online stays there and can never be erased. Even when the account is deleted the information is there also you never know if someone has already printed or copied your photos or text.
Stay cautious while clicking on links. This means never click on links without knowing how genuine they are. Even if you receive it from a friend never rely on it as hackers take advantage if this fact and they send a malicious link from known compromised accounts. Remember the key rule anything that seems too good to be true is usually malevolent.
Information shared on social networks can be linked to others’ profiles.
If you plan to share images online, make sure GPS function on a smartphone camera is disabled so that your exact location is secret. Furthermore, avoid enabling auto login, Change account password frequently.
Certainly, no one can prevent identity theft, but by keeping these points in mind you can easily keep your personal data protected on the social networks. In this digitally connected age, it is important to keep an eye of skepticism as this is the only way to stay protected.