*Editor’s note: This year-long series about financial literacy 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 with online communities that are relevant to you – whether personal or professional. Keep your experience with social media positive and be proactive in protecting yourself and keeping your information safe by following these 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 your accounts, including any social media platforms you use.
What is a strong password? A strong password is one that:
- Isn’t easy to guess. This means not using commonly known things about you such as your birthday, dog’s name, house number, anniversary date, etc. Also, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t use “password” as your password.
- Has a mix of character types. Some sites require specific combinations, but others’ password requirements aren’t very robust. Use a combination of numbers, letters, and special characters/symbols.
- Is at least 12 characters long. Shorter passwords are easier to guess. The longer you make it, the harder it’ll 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’re posting. Don’t post things like:
- Your photo IDs. Have a new driver in your house? Starting a new job? It’s tempting to snap a photo of your new ID to share your excitement. However, these can contain sensitive information like your full date of birth (including the year) and ID number (i.e., driver’s license number or employee number.) That’s information that’s best kept to yourself.
- Financial account information. Many companies have a social media presence to engage with their customers or members. While social media platforms have become a common place to interact with brands when you need assistance or want to share a good or bad experience, be careful not to overshare. For instance, if you’re communicating with your financial institution, you don’t want to share your account information over social media, such as your account number or PIN. While you can certainly use social media to reach out with general questions, keep specific account questions contained to secure communication channels provided by the company.
3. Pause Before Sharing Photos
Before you post a photo, stop and think. Consider the following:
- Is it a photo you’re willing to let anyone see? Even though you may 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 OK with it being online forever? Even if you delete it later, once something is online, it exists online forever. So that photo of your kid in the bathtub that may seem cute right now may not seem so cute when they’re old enough to have their own online identity.
- Is there anything sensitive in the background? Laptop screens, work notes, and bulletin boards that aren’t the focal point of a photo may seem harmless but can often still be easily read. Make sure anything appearing 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. This goes beyond the password tips we shared earlier and includes:
- Keeping your profile private. Most social media sites have settings that allow you to limit the visibility of your posts to your “friends.” This keeps strangers from accessing information about you or gaining too much of a glimpse into your personal life.
- Only connecting with people you know. Keeping your profile private is only effective if you’re truly selective in who you connect with online. Don’t connect with people you don’t know and watch out for fake profiles imitating people you do know.
- Reviewing your settings regularly. Especially after an update, sometimes social media sites change their security settings and may automatically set new ones for you. This is often in the fine print of an update or user agreement you accept. Set a regular time to review your settings, making an extra effort to do so after an update is installed to ensure you know what you’re permitting on the site (i.e., who can see your profile, who can tag you in photos, and what information about you is public.)
5. Stay Up to Date on Security Trends
Social media is always evolving, so it’s important to stay current on what kinds of scams are trending and emerging so 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 serve regularly.
To learn more about scams and how you can protect your identity and your information, check out the security section of our blog on psecu.com.