You’re on Twitter and you love it. You’ve made hundreds if not thousands of Twitter friends that are so fun and helpful. You share all sorts of things about yourself with your friends, from what you’re cooking for dinner, your birthday, kids birthdays, where you’re going for lunch, to business information like your email, phone number, and Skype name.
You don’t think twice about sharing this information because you’re comfortable online with your friends. But what about those that aren’t your friends? All that information you’re sharing is now on the world wide web for anyone to see…forever.
Don’t think anyone’s checking? Ask Lynn Terry about publishing your address. She thought she was safe too until one day when she was surprised to have an unexpected guest show up at her back door!
We’re taught that social networking is about sharing but how do you keep yourself safe from lurkers, spammers and generally not-so-nice people?
Here are a few tips to keep you safe on sites like Twitter, Facebook and other social networks:
1. Be Careful What You Provide In Your Profiles
When filling out your social profiles, take account of who you really want to make this information available to. If it’s not the whole world, then don’t advertise it publicly on your profile. Supplying your email address may increase the amount of spam you receive. Supplying your phone number could result in unsolicited sales calls, or worse.
If you have a home office, PLEASE do not post your home address anywhere online as your business address. Invest the few bucks in a PO Box rental. When I sent out my first Aweber email I realized that my home address had appeared at the bottom of my newsletter and I freaked out just a bit. I hadn’t meant for that to show up, so be careful to check what information will show before you send any automated broadcasts out.
2. You Don’t Have To Divulge Every Detail In Your Updates
Some people love to tell others their every move. Want to know where John Chow is having lunch at noon? Check his Twitter stream. While that may be great for a big guy like John to get a free lunch from a fan…how would a single woman feel to have some creepy guy show up offering her a free something because he saw on her Twitter stream where she’s going to be at noon? Just sayin… Use wisdom.
Also, remember that the more private information you share about yourself the more chances you are giving hackers to crack your passwords. If you tend to use your kid’s birthdays, pet’s name, mom’s maiden name, etc., you might want to think twice about sharing any of that.
My best tip? Use Roboform to autogenerate and remember your passwords. It comes up with some random number/character passwords that are tough to crack. You should change your Twitter password every so often just to be safe. And, Roboform is handy tool to keep track of all your millions of passwords and logins. I couldn’t live without it!
3. Use DM (Direct Messages) or Private Email For Sharing
If you need to give your email to someone, even if it’s a few people, consider sending that through a few DM’s on Twitter rather than just throwing your full email out on the main Twitter stream for anyone to grab. Whenever I see someone putting their email in a Tweet I cringe. It’s like asking for your spam filter to work overtime. Same goes for phone numbers…if you’re giving out your Customer Service number on Twitter that’s one thing, but sharing your cell or home number is just crazy.
4. Don’t Trust Every Link
With only 140 characters allowed, we are all using URL shorteners to make for more room in our updates. But, some unscrupulous people out there are using shorteners to throw spammy links or even viruses out there. Be careful what you click on to avoid viruses or phishing scams. Hootsuite will actually show you the full url and snapshot of the shortened URL before you click on it. Or you can use an app like Long URL Please to tell you where the shortened link goes to before clicking.
5. Don’t Trust Every Brand
Just because you see a logo you recognize it doesn’t mean the user is associated in any way to the brand. Twitter has made it possible for anyone to grab a user name, throw up a logo or a familiar picture and look like the real deal. Do a bit of checking before you start trusting. Check the URL they link to in their profile for legitimacy. Check to see if the real brand’s website has another Twitter/Facebook profile they advertise on their site directly. Do they match? Use your super sleuth skills to hunt and protect yourself.
In general, just think twice about what your sharing. Treat the Internet like a novel rather than a journal. Keep your journal private and for the eyes of those you trust only. Once you publish something online it’s available to other people and all the search engines. You may try to remove a page(s) from the Internet, but someone could have already seen it. With recent Twitter phishing attacks we should be realizing how important it is to stay safe online.
Have you ever been victim of a phishing scam that you believe began from a social network site? Have you ever had a strange encounter after sharing personal information online with those you trusted? Please share with us what your experience has been and any other tips you have for staying safe on social networks in the comments below.
To Your Success,