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How do I stay safe and avoid scams on social media?

Friday 02 March 2018

Reading time: 2 minutes

Your social media profile can be used against you. Here’s how to stay safe.
Close up of a laptop being used by a person

Tip #1: Don’t over-broadcast

Though it sometimes seems like you’re only talking to your friends online, be aware that you might not be. People can access any public conversations, and build up a detailed profile of your offline self.

Burglars, for example, have been known to target homes through social media. So don’t talk too much about your very expensive new games console, your faulty front door lock or your upcoming holiday.

Predators and trolls can also use your social media posts to their advantage. Don’t provide ammunition; keep your personal conversations to private groups, and don’t engage with strange comments, or commenters.

Tip #2: Watch what you snap

Even innocent family photos can pose a problem online. Make sure that you don’t have old cards, bank statements or other sensitive information hanging around in the background. It's always polite to ask others for permission to take photos. Know how to untag yourself from photos others post should you need to.

Tip #3: Use privacy settings

Privacy settings can make all the difference to your enjoyment and safety. Private profiles aren’t ideal if you want to use social media for professional purposes, post viral content or generally make a splash online, but they’re great for personal use.

Use these settings to completely bar the negative influences, trolls, predators and general non-friends that lurk online. They won’t be able to access your posts, photos or conversations without your permission.

Tip #4: Be industrious with passwords and passcodes

Ever accidentally left your phone somewhere? Hijackings can range from mildly embarrassing to very serious. Setting a passcode on your phone ensures you an extra layer of security – even if it’s just from mischievous siblings.

Change your passwords regularly and vary them from platform to platform, device to device. And don’t be too obvious! If you have opted for a ‘classic’ sort of password – a childhood pet, for example – try to avoid mentioning said pet in your online conversations.

Tip #5: Don’t be too trusting

Be aware that if a link, post or invitation seems strange– even if it’s from a friend – then it probably is. Clicking such links can result in big problems for your social media profile, computer and email account.

Likewise, be generally aware of those you don’t know in real life. While many great friendships and relationships can be forged online, it doesn't hurt to be careful when chatting to new acquaintances.

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