Social media sites are still going strong. We love to check in with faraway family, see what our friends are up to, and share our own activities. But, staying safe while meeting new people online is crucial. There are a few simple ways you can protect yourself that do not take much time or effort, but could make a huge difference.
Watch What Your Profile Includes
Many social media sites and apps want to make it simple for you to join. These may not request many details when creating an account or setting up a profile.
For example, Instagram asks for basic information, unless you prefer to use your Facebook account. You can sign up with just your name, a username and password, and your email address (which is kept private). Other details in your profile are optional such as phone number, gender, and biography.
When it comes to the optional information, think carefully before sharing it. Ask yourself, is there a reason they need this? Will these details be kept private? What might they do with this information? Check their terms and policies along with settings available to you for your own privacy.
Social media apps may require you to enable your location. Others might require your cell phone number. If you are joining a site that requires personal information that you are uncomfortable sharing, then do not do it.
Research New Social Media Sites
It seems that new social media sites take a stab at joining the market all the time. But, if they are truly brand new, make sure that you do your research before creating an account and handing over your personal information.
Jump onto your favorite search engine, pop in the name of the site, and see what types of results you get. You may see forums with comments from people regarding the site. You might even spot red flags right in the results. Remember, there is no harm in conducting a quick search.
Are any of your close friends on the new site that interests you? If so, definitely get their thoughts on it. But if not, you may want to hold off a bit before joining and also ask your pals if they have even heard of it. After all, if the point is to be social, wouldn’t you like at least one of your friends there too?
Get Referrals from Friends
If you receive requests from people that you do not know, give them a good once-over. As examples, on Facebook, you can see if you have mutual friends and on Twitter, you can see who else they follow.
If you do notice that you have other friends in common, then check with one of those friends. Do not just rely on fact that you are mutually connected. There is nothing wrong with saying “Hey Jim, I got a request from so-and-so, but I don’t recognize the name”. This is just one way to find out who the person is and how they possibly know you before you accept.
Check Your Accounts Often
You probably use one or two social media sites more than others. Maybe you log into Twitter each day, but only check Pinterest once a month. For those that you visit often, you would likely notice odd activity right away. But, for those that you only visit occasionally, it is a good idea to keep an eye on them.
For example, some sites are playgrounds for shifty activity on user accounts. If you suddenly receive a message from someone you never chat with that makes you wonder why, it is cause for suspicion. Or, if you receive a new request from a person that you are already connected to, it could be a spoofed account. Both of these things have happened to me, more than once, and they were frauds in each case.
Knowing that these kinds of activities take place, checking your own accounts often is smart. Look for strange occurrences such as posts you did not create or unusual messages. If you suspect that one of your own accounts has been tampered with, follow up with the site for appropriate action.
When you are chatting with someone new online, there are several warning signs that you should keep in mind. If you happen to notice one or more of these, then it is wise to take a step back.
Beware of someone who:
- Asks personal questions too early in the relationship
- Asks for your physical address or phone number
- Begins rapidly following you on all of your other social media accounts
- Contradicts what they have told you about themselves
- Seems to know things about you that you did not share with them
One of the Biggest Dangers
The National Crime Prevention Council offers a wonderful article with advice, precautions, and dangers. Although the article is geared towards how to help teens with social networking safety, this information is valuable to everyone.
One of the biggest dangers discussed is “He’s not who you think he is”:
Social networking sites make it very easy to pretend to be someone else. Even if an individual may be friends with someone on the site, anyone can take control of a user’s account if he or she can obtain the user’s password. As a result, someone who is a “Friend” can ask for money or gain personal information that can be used to hack into other accounts.
Just Be Cautious
You do not have to run out and perform a background check on every new person you meet online. And, there are security measures that go much deeper than these, of course. But, these tips are just very simple ways to keep yourself a little safer with those new connections.
How Do You Play It Safe?
Are there specific precautions that you take to stay safe when meeting new people online? Maybe you limit the number of social sites you join, do not accept requests unless you know the person well, or only join sites recommended by friends.
Let us know in the comments below the simple ways that you play it safe!