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10 ways to protect yourself on social media

From friend requests to phishing, here are the essentials
October 11, 2018
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By Concordia Social Media Team

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Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn offer great ways to socialize and connect with friends and others who share similar interests — or to network professionally.

However, it’s easy to hide or alter one’s identity using any of these platforms. And if you haven’t met the person in real life, it’s hard to know their true identity or their real intentions.

Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself online, as well as some tips to help you assess online interactions and connections.  

1.    Be aware of what’s public

When was the last time you Googled yourself? Doing so regularly is a good way to see what kinds of information about you — or images and videos of you — are publicly available.

You can also set up a Google Alert for yourself so you’ll be notified whenever a new item about you is posted online.

2.    Check your privacy settings

Every social media platform offers ways to control what information you’re sharing with whom. Check these settings often as they change all the time.

Here are some guides on how to set your privacy settings for Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

3.    Don’t accept friend requests from strangers

One way to control who sees your posts or has access to information about you is to only accept friend requests from people you know on platforms like Snapchat, Facebook and LinkedIn.

4.    Be careful when you check-in or share your location

When checking in somewhere or sharing your location, be aware that you’re essentially sharing your whereabouts with everyone who has access to what you post. You’re announcing where you are to your friends, but also, potentially to strangers.

5.    Review your tags

Some platforms, like Facebook, allow you to view posts you’re tagged in so you can decide if you want to share them or not. 

6.    Don’t share personal information online

Regardless of what platform you’re on, don’t share personal information like your phone number, home address, email address or student ID number. If you need to share that information, do it privately and make sure you know who you’re sharing it with and why they need the information.

This rule not only applies to online platforms like social media and messaging apps, but to offline ones as well. Think twice before providing information to anyone, even if it’s in the guise of a job offer, an opportunity to win a prize or money that you’re supposedly entitled to. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

Not all events or opportunities you may come across on Concordia’s campuses are associated with the university or even known to the university. If you are solicited for personal information on campus, ask questions. Who is asking? Why do they need your information? What will they do with it?

7.    Don’t share anything you don’t want your grandma to see

Even if you have your privacy settings set to the max, don’t share anything online you wouldn’t want your grandma to see. Assume that once you’ve posted it, it’s online and findable forever.

8.    Keep your information private online and off

Be mindful when giving out your personal information online because this makes you a potential target for phishing scams and texts, emails or other communication with malicious software attachments. Don’t open suspicious emails or other messages.

Don’t reply to them. Don’t click on links contained within the communication and don’t provide your phone number, email address or any other information on a web page you may be directed to.

If you encounter a situation where someone has posted your personal information on a public social media platform, a practice known as doxing, please contact the platform it’s been posted to immediately to have the content removed.

If someone contacts you via a social media or messaging platform threatening to publicly share inappropriate photos or videos of you, don’t panic, and never comply or negotiate with a cybercriminal.

Please be aware that, while it’s persuasive, the information that is used to blackmail targets is generally made-up. Support exists; please contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre immediately.

Also, beware of individuals impersonating government officials (like the Canada Revenue Agency), family members or even friends and acquaintances. In these cases there is always a sense of urgency, either you are about to be arrested or someone is in need of emergency assistance.

It can be jarring and upsetting to receive these kinds of calls or messages but it’s important to take a second to verify the situation before acting. Before doing anything, reach out to the official or person who’s trying to contact you by phone to confirm the information.

In the case of a government agency, call the official agency phone number for assistance. Make sure to file a report with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre as well.

9.    Keep an eye on your passwords

We all have too many passwords, but it’s important to ensure that all your passwords are different and as obscure as possible. A good password should contain a few capital letters, numbers and a symbol.

Don’t share your passwords and be sure to change them regularly. Also, make sure you have a password lock on your phone. Use apps like “Find My iPhone” to protect the data on your phone should it be lost or stolen. Always opt for two-way authentication whenever it’s available (i.e. when you need your username/password along with a piece of information that only you know, to log into a site).

Opt for email notifications for every log in. Check third-party apps regularly to see which has automatic access to your social media accounts. De-authorize ones you’re no longer using.

10.  Check community guidelines

For more information, check the community guidelines on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

Following these tips and trusting your instincts will help you stay safe when interacting on social media.

 

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