* Editor’s Note: This one-year financial literacy series is sponsored by PSECU.
Social media is a great tool that allows you to stay in touch with family and friends, as well as engage in online communities that are relevant to you, whether personal or business. Keep your social media experience positive and be proactive in protecting yourself and your information by following the tips below.
1. Set strong passwords
One of the most basic things you can do to protect your information is to create strong passwords for all of your accounts, including any social media platforms you use.
What is a strong password? A strong password is one that:
- It is not easy to guess. This means that you are not using things known to you like your date of birth, your dog’s name, house number, birthday, etc. In addition, it goes without saying that you should not use “password” as the password.
- Has a mix of character types. Some sites require specific combinations, but the password requirements of others are not very strong. Use a combination of numbers, letters and special characters / symbols.
- Has at least 12 characters. Shorter passwords are easier to guess. The more you do it, the harder it will be to compromise.
2. Don’t post sensitive information
In an increasingly digital world, it’s understandable that you want to share major life events with your online community, especially if that’s how you stay in touch with family and friends. However, think twice about what you post. Don’t post things like:
- Your photo ID. Do you have a new driver at home? Start a new job? It’s tempting to take a photo of your new ID to share your excitement. However, these may contain sensitive information such as your full date of birth (including year) and identification number (i.e. your driver’s license number or employee number. .) This is best information to keep to yourself.
- Financial account information. Many businesses have a social media presence to interact with their customers or members. While social media platforms have become a common place to interact with brands when you need help or want to share a good or bad experience, be careful not to over-share. For example, if you communicate with your financial institution, you do not want to share your account information on social media, such as your account number or PIN code. While you can certainly use social media to ask general questions, keep specific account questions contained to secure the communication channels provided by the company.
3. Pause before sharing photos
Before posting a photo, stop and think. Consider the following:
- Is this a photo that you are ready to show to anyone? Even if you have security settings in place, it’s easy for anyone to take a screenshot of what you’ve shared and show it to anyone else they know.
- Are you okay with it being online forever? Even if you delete it later, once something is online, it exists online forever. So, this photo of your kid in the tub that may look cute right now may not look so cute when they’re old enough to have their own online identity.
- Is there something sensitive in the background? Laptop screens, work notes, and bulletin boards that aren’t the focal point of a photo may appear harmless but can often be easily read. Make sure that anything in the background of a photo doesn’t contain sensitive information that could compromise your finances, identity, or confidential information from your workplace.
4. Monitor your security settings
While not foolproof, having strong security settings is an important part of protecting your information online. It goes beyond the password tips we shared earlier and includes:
- Keep your profile private. Most social media sites have settings that allow you to limit the visibility of your posts to your “friends”. This prevents strangers from gaining access to information about you or having too much insight into your personal life.
- Connect only with people you know. Keeping your profile private is only effective if you are truly selective about who you connect with online. Don’t connect with people you don’t know and watch out for fake profiles that imitate people you know.
- Check your settings regularly. Especially after an update, social media sites sometimes change their security settings and may automatically set new ones for you. Often these are the fine print of an update or a user agreement that you agree to. Set a regular time to review your settings, going the extra mile to do so after installing an update to make sure you know what you allow on the site (i.e. who can see your profile, who can identify you in photos, and what information about you is public.)
5. Stay up to date on security trends
Social media is constantly evolving, so it is important to stay on top of the hottest and emerging types of scams so that you can protect your personal information. As a trusted financial partner, we make it a priority to share this information with our members and the communities we regularly serve.
To learn more about scams and how you can protect your identity and information, visit the security section of our blog on psecu.com.