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8 Ways You Can Protect Yourself (and Your Identity) on Social Media

Everyone uses social media, which means we share more of our personal lives and details than ever before. Unfortunately, not everyone on our friends or followers list should be trusted. Fraudsters have gotten better and better at piecing together information to steal account information and identities and scam others on your friends and follower list. If you've ever wondered how to protect yourself on social media, or how to protect your identity on social media, we've got a few tips to help you out.

A businesswoman with a cup of coffee is checking her cell phone.
  1. Limit Your Friend's List and Followers
  2. Savvy fraudsters create fake social media profiles with demographics matching those they send connection requests to. By becoming your friend or following you, they hope to access personal information, like when you'll be out of town on vacation. Be sure you actually know the person before you accept their friend or follow request, and only accept requests from people you have met or are aware of. If you've had your social media profile for a while, go through your list of friends or followers and delete or un-friend anyone you don't know.

  3. Think Before You Share
  4. It's tempting to share about your trip, but that information can quickly end up in the wrong hands. Letting your community know you're traveling for a week also means telling them your home is unoccupied and you won't be around to check on things. Instead, wait until you're back home to post. The same goes for posting about when you've moved or if you've lost your job or gotten a new one. Unfortunately, it's a good way for fraudsters to get ideas about how they can fool you. For example, if you've recently lost your job, you're tipping off scammers to target your unemployment benefits or send you fake job offers that are actually scams. As another example, if you share that you still need to file your taxes, someone could try to get to it before you do and file a fraudulent tax return.

  5. Adjust Your Privacy Settings and Review the Privacy Policy
  6. Many social media platforms allow for a lot of customization as to who can access and view your information, so take advantage of that. Review your settings, see what you're putting out there, and who can see it. You can adjust your settings so your posts are only seen by your friends rather than everyone using the site. The same goes for viewing your profile, past posts, and personal information. At least once a year, adjust those settings to your preferences. Change your profile from public to private to limit who sees your information, and think twice before you share sensitive information on any of your profiles. Lastly, read the site's privacy policy and terms of service as much as possible to understand how it will impact your data privacy. The same goes for any changes to the policy; it's important to stay informed.

  7. Remove Personal Information
  8. It may be fun to get birthday messages, but your date of birth is also sensitive personal information. Think about it this way: What information do you need about a person using their identity to open an account or take out a credit card in their name? The victim's name, where they're from, phone number, date of birth, and email address are all pretty good starts for an identity thief. Also, many online security questions are related to where you're from, where you went to high school, or who your best friend is; answers that can often be found just by looking at someone's social pages. For safer social media use, remove as much personal information as possible from your profile.

  9. Use Strong, Unique Passwords
  10. We know you've heard this before, but it's important enough to repeat. Create a robust and unique password for each of your accounts. If one of your accounts is hacked, it's too easy to hack into your other accounts when you reuse passwords. Avoid easy-to-guess passwords that use birthdays or common phrases, and think about using a password manager to generate and store your new, complex passwords securely. This way, you don't have to try to remember all of them, and you can still keep your accounts secure. Enable two-factor authentication whenever possible to add an extra layer of security. Generally, you'll only need to use two-factor authentication when you log in from a new device, so it's a minor inconvenience for better security.

  11. Data Sharing Permissions
  12. Some social media platforms give third-party apps access to your data. Go through your phone's settings on a regular basis and revoke access to apps that don't need access to your information or that you don't use anymore. Limit the amount of personal data these apps can access to minimize potential security risks if you can. On a similar note, let's say you already have a Facebook account, and you go to create a profile on Instagram. Instagram allows you to create an Instagram profile through your Facebook account. Tap decline and choose to create a separate profile instead. If your Instagram account gets hacked, your Facebook account is hacked, too. This goes for any accounts you create across all sites that give you this option.

  13. Monitor Your Accounts
  14. Monitor all your social media accounts for suspicious activities, like messages you don't remember sending to friends and family. Regularly, at least once a month, check your login history and review the list of devices that have accessed your account to make sure they're legitimate. Don't count on platforms sending you emails since they could be fraudulent. If you get an email saying your accounts have been logged into, go to the app directly to check your login history rather than clicking on any links in an email or text.

  15. Know About Common Social Media Scams
  16. Fraudsters often use phishing tactics to trick unsuspecting people into giving out their login credentials and other information. Scams can vary, but generally, what they're after is your information to hack into your accounts or money. Think get-rich-quick schemes where you're asked for a “small” investment and romance scams where someone begins messaging you and establishes a relationship before asking for money and offering items for a deep discount, among other things. More on scams and how to spot them in our article How to Identify Scams and Prevent Them.

Help Keep Kids Informed and Safe

As the internet is used more and more, kids are becoming victims on social media platforms. And, because they don't yet have the life experience to spot red flags, they don't always communicate with adults or ask questions to understand what's really happening. Talk with the kids in your life about internet safety, spotting red flags, and speaking up if they get random messages or friend requests, as that can quickly lead to unsafe situations.

WaFd Bank is Here to Help

Our friendly bankers are here to help you keep your money and your good name safe with products and services to make banking easy. WaFd is also here for any questions you might have about scams, money, how to protect yourself on social media, how to protect your identity on social media, or anything else. No question is too small! We also offer checking accounts that come with rewards to help you save money and stay on top of your finances. To learn more, take a look at our checking account options, open an account online , stop by your local branch, or give us a call at 800-324-9375.

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