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Home > News & Events > Tips for Staying Safe in the World of Social Networking

Tips for Staying Safe in the World of Social Networking

Social networking is on the rise and, according to a study by the Pew Research Center, the fastest growing group of networkers is the over-55 demographic. Seniors are logging on to Facebook during the day, and then tweeting the night away on Twitter. Social networking connects new friends, old schoolmates, former colleagues and — believe it or not — users' very own family members.

These days, kids graduate high school and scatter to colleges across the country — often thousands of miles from their families. Facebook helps their parents and grandparents keep in touch with them through real-time postings and immediate sharing of photographs. Grandparents no longer have to spend weeks checking their mailboxes as they wait for pictures from Junior. Junior doesn't have to feel guilty that he's not keeping in touch with the parents and grandparents. Social networking makes it all instantaneous.

Corresponding back and forth for hours on end, it's easy to get swept away in the fun of it all. But before you get in too deep, there are some common sense tips to keep in mind when participating in social networking.

  • The first thing to always keep in mind is that this is the Web, and information that you put out there will be there in perpetuity. It is possible that someday in the distant future, information that you enter today may come back to haunt you. So always consider "is this a piece of information that I would want anyone and everyone to see?"

  • One piece of information that does not belong on your social networking page is your Social Security number. Think of this number as the key to the inner workings of your life. If you are currently receiving Social Security or Medicare, you know how important that number is and how it ties everything together. No one should see it on your Facebook page.

  • When completing the Basic Information Tab on Facebook, once again think through what information you're comfortable including. Consider carefully before including your home address or any other location-identifiers or specific contact information.

  • When looking at your Privacy Settings Applications and Websites page on Facebook, keep in mind that this page outlines what information your friends can share about you. While you will most likely be able to trust most of your friends, if you do have one or two who are especially rambunctious and a little lacking in the "good judgment" department, you may want to limit their ability to embarrass you by making the right choices on this page.

  • Steer clear of giving away your age or date of birth. Today you may be proud to be over 50 and happy to shout it from the rooftops. However, if you were to lose your job tomorrow and had to begin interviewing, would you want your resume passed over simply because someone located your age on a social networking site, and perceived it as objectionable?

  • Never post specific details of your comings and goings. Posts such as "leaving for vacation Tuesday at 10:00, and will be in Cancun for a week", let people know that you're away from your home for an extended period.

  • Posting pictures of you and your family members is part of the fun of social networking. But be especially careful when posting pictures of your underage children or grandchildren. And don't give details about where they go to school, how they get there, or any of their social activities. You trust your friends, but they probably already know everything they need to about the comings and goings of you and your family. And strangers don't need to know.

  • Never upload updates from an email link, even if they seemingly come from your social networking site. Always go directly to the site through your browser to check for updates.

Identity thieves consider people over 50 to be the perfect targets for internet scams. If you fall into that demographic, you should pay special attention to keeping certain identifying information private while on social networking sites:

  • In general, the Boomer and senior generations have more financial resources than do their younger counterparts. They also check their credit reports less frequently, and may be unaware of the consequences of a financial scam until it is too late. Never discuss assets, financial or otherwise, on social networking sites.

  • Scam artists can often get enough details from your page to impersonate a friend or relative. So, if anyone — even someone you recognize as a friend — asks you for money through your social networking account, make sure to verify the request directly with that person.

  • Keep all medical and Medicare or insurance information off of your social networking pages. Again, scammers and spammers who do make their way into your personal pages can devise ways to use your personal information for their own benefit.

  • If you've signed into your social networking site and you suddenly receive a message to re-enter your sign-on information, do not re-enter it. Scammers have learned how to duplicate the look of sign-on screens almost to perfection. If you re-enter your sign-on ID and password, you'll be giving them everything they need to get into your account.

Over the years, information posted to internet sites has been compromised by hackers. While social networking can be fun, it is prudent to use it to connect with family and friends — not to post identifying and sensitive information. With a little attention to detail, and some overall good judgment, your social networking experience can be both fun and safe.

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