If a stranger approached you on the street, what would you tell them about yourself? Would you rattle off your full name, date of birth, mailing address, phone number, and the names of all your family members and closest friends? Would you pull out your phone and show them pictures of you and your loved ones at special events, family gatherings, and on campus events? Would you tell them exactly where you were going, what you were doing, and what businesses you frequent?
Hopefully the answers to these questions are “no,” because you understand the importance of keeping your personal information private to protect yourself. You don’t want someone following you, learning your habits, and ultimately doing something to cause you harm.
If you want to keep yourself safe, you should apply these same attitudes toward managing your social media accounts. Outside of protecting your physical safety, maintaining a level of privacy is also important in keeping your identity safe as well.
It is no secret that the heightened level of technology in today’s world allows for some great things, such as increased access to research tools and an easier way to communicate instantly with friends and family around the world. However, this same technology can put your current and future finances at risk if you do not take steps to protect your identity while using social media.
If your information is compromised, the individuals that compromised it can use that information to access accounts that already exist – credit cards, checking and savings accounts, cell phone accounts – and make unauthorized charges or changes. Additionally, the information could be used to create new accounts in your name without your consent or knowledge – the financial complications of this can be overwhelming and take an extended period of time to fix.
One of the first steps you can take to protect yourself is to pay attention to your privacy settings on any social media sites. Leaving your profile on social media sites set to “public” allows anyone who searches for your name to access any information that you share on the site. Next, think about what information you share on your social media site and now compare that list to the information you may be asked to provide if you are contacting your financial institutions (or any other company) to access your account or reset a password. Unfortunately, the lists may be scarily similar – full name, date of birth, home address, email address, phone number…
Now, even if you have checked your privacy settings and are comfortable with them, remember that once you put something on the Internet, it never truly disappears. Be extra cautious about what you share, even with your friends. As exciting as it may be to get your college ID or a driver’s license updated with your new name after a wedding or your new address after a big move, think about the contents of what you are putting out there. Could someone use the information to pretend to be you?
Take some time today to consider not only the privacy settings, but also the content that you share on your social media accounts. Taking just a few minutes today can save you a lot of unnecessary stress and financial issues in the long run.