7 social media safety lessons

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As the popularity of social media rises, the privacy of its users seems to disappear. Both celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Alanis Morissette, and regular people like you and I, are leaving digital fingerprints behind for friends, family, and strangers to see. What’s scary is, the more information we share with the digital world, the greater the risk of you or I becoming a prime target for criminals.

Yes, social media is all about brands and individuals sharing and engaging. Don’t get me wrong—it can be amazing. However, as sharing our personal information digitally becomes a daily staple in our lives, it’s important to note that social media also can compromise our security, which can leave us vulnerable and exposed.

While this dose of reality can be sobering, here are seven lessons to think about when sharing content while ensuring your safety and security is not compromised.

It can happen to you

Prior to her Parisian robbery, Kardashian said she felt completely safe alone in her room. Why shouldn’t she? It’s human nature for us to feel like bad things only happen to other people, but could never actually happen to us.

Regardless of whether you’re a celebrity abroad or a person relaxing in the comfort of their own home, you could be targeted directly by criminals or the unlucky victim of a random crime.

It happens all the time.

Yes, social networking is all about sharing. It’s easy to forget that something you post in confidence—even with privacy settings on high—can be shared multiple times.

Before you know it, someone you don't even know has access to something of yours that is private. Which can be very scary, because things put out on the Internet never go away.

I repeat, things that get put out there in the digital world never go away.

Adopt this as your new social media motto: "When in doubt, leave it out." And always remember that anything you share has the potential to be leaked in some way.

Even if it’s your first post and you have yet to acquire any followers.

Less is more

While most of us are not on Instagram sharing images of our new $4.5 million ring like Kardashian, many of us have posted an engagement ring, designer bag, shoe shopping spree, new home, and more over social media.

Are you guilty of this sharing? I am. While it might be tempting to flaunt what you’ve got, it also tells crooks you’ve got something they want. Because of safety and security concerns, moderation is key.

As a rule of thumb, less than 15 percent of all your social media posts should showcase your personal valuables. That’s less than one out of every seven posts. And, because less is always more, it also is smart to consider showing only 50 percent of what you really possess.

For your safety, and those around you, it’s always good to keep some things for yourself, family, and your friends in real life. The element of surprise never gets old.

Hold up, #wheelsup

“Hey, I’m going to Chicago this weekend. What should I go and see?” is what I imagine Morissette’s last tweet was prior to arriving home to millions in missing jewelry.

Airport check ins and packing pictures are a fun way to let our friends and family know we are traveling. They also are neon signs letting others know that your home or apartment are unoccupied.

Many burglars target the residences of those who post on social media about leaving for vacation. If you don’t want to come home to a ransacked place and missing valuables, you might want to wait to upload all your vacation pictures once you’ve returned.

Can’t wait? Consider using airport check ins when you are returning home as opposed to when you are leaving. Or delay the posting of your travel prep and vacation images a few days so you’re already on your way back before they go live.

And—if you insist on making the information public—please remember that it is safer not to announce how long you will be away or when you will be coming back in the same post. Not even on the same social media platform.

Be untraceable

Kardashian posted multiple Snapchat videos from her Parisian hotel a few hours before she was robbed, which made her location crystal clear. The robbers, who were following her every move, could see exactly where she was and with what valuables.

When posting social media content, it is always a good idea not to reveal the exact location of where you live, currently are, or plan to be.

Most smart phones come with geotagging technology, so it’s important to know how your phone’s camera and social media platforms work to track your location. Mainly, so you can disable this option when possible.

Why? Because when sharing images or information, it’s safer to disable the geotagging software and activate it only when you want to deliberately use it.

Personally, I turn off all location services so my posts will not leave a trace of my location.

If I’m at an event or on location for business that requires me to post where I am as I’m there, I go out of my way to delay the post or move to a much different area of the venue and snap a picture.

Paranoid, much?

Trust me, nothing is creepier than having a stranger who knows way too much about you finding you in a concert crowd of 40,000 people and tapping you on the shoulder.

Delay the gratification

Social media platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram Stories encourage you to record your real-time movements in that very moment. However, sometimes it is a good idea to post this content a few hours later.

While most of your followers are viewing your posts innocently, you never know who is closely monitoring your timeline—especially if you have an open profile.

Using popular hashtags like #throwbackthursdays or #aboutlastnight are a great way to share content while keeping the exact time of your activities a mystery. To avoid being tracked down while using Snapchat, put your phone on airplane mode and wait to upload snaps until after you’ve left that location.

No numbers, please

You wouldn’t give your home address, phone number, exact birthdate, or bank information to a stranger on the street, would you? Then why would you share that information online?

Doing so opens you up to threats of identity theft.

Posting your phone number gives Internet-savvy people easy access to your address. Reverse lookup services can supply anyone with your number your address. Even hinting at where you bank can cause you huge financial headaches. And, supplying your full birthdate gives identity thieves key info they need to open accounts in your name.

With all the headlines of Wells Fargo opening dummy accounts, it's easy for an innocent Facebook comment or tweet to reveal way too much about your personal finances.

For example, imagine you’re posting to a thread on a friend’s Facebook wall about the Wells Fargo scandal. You leave a comment like, “Not us! We bank at the local credit union.” If you're one who allows open access to your profile, suddenly identity thieves know who you are and where you bank.

It's easy to forget that what may seem like a harmless comment on social media could reveal a great deal about your personal finances. Best to avoid that kind of talk altogether.

Careful around the kids

Confession: I’m not a mom. However, I am the world’s greatest aunt and godmother multiple times over.  Little babies, toddlers, and kids of all ages up until their teenage years are my favorite things.

Kids are cute. They’re hilarious. They are crazy unpredictable and intensely adorable at the same time, which makes them social media gold.

It’s no surprise why so many people post hundreds of pictures of their children online for the entire world to see. We love and are proud of those little critters.

Why would we not also tag them with both their names and ours, plus everyone’s exact location?

If there’s one time you should be extra careful, it’s when it comes to children and social media. Especially as it relates to their whereabouts and where they go to school.

What’s the big deal?

The problem is you can never be too sure that only your friends and those you want to see these photos are the only ones seeing them. What if one of your friends has their account hacked or logs into their social account on a public device and forgets to log out?

Assume that everything is public and don’t post anything kid-related you wouldn’t want the world to have access to. If you must post pictures of your kids, remove any geotag information and avoid using their real full names in the picture tag or description.

The same goes for your friends’ kids, too. In fact, when they’re not your own kids, you should always get permission from their parents prior to posting anything related to them.

How do you ensure your safety and security while social networking?

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