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Be Facebook-Smart

Are you on Facebook?  A recent survey found that about half of the American population (49%) participates in social media, most often using Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.  (If you are one of them, please head on over to our Facebook page “McClain Insurance” for a visit.  But before you do, first finish reading this post and then be sure to adjust your Facebook privacy settings.  🙂  )

Despite its popularity, Facebook got itself into the headlines for less-than-adequate privacy settings and sharing users’ personal information.  Not to mention other databases, which routinely crawl the web for publicly available information about a person.

If you are a Facebook user, take care to protect yourself and your identity!  Here are a few tips that we found in  Consumer Reports Magazine:

1.  Make your password bullet-proof

Avoid names or words that can be found in a dictionary, even if you tack numbers on the end.  Instead, select a password that’s at least 8 characters long, and includes upper and lower case spelling as well as numbers and symbols (ideally inserted into the middle of the word).

2.  Don’t share your full birth date

A publicly shared birthdate almost equals an entry pass to acquire more information about you – exactly what identity thieves are waiting for.  If you’ve already entered your birthdate into Facebook, go to your profile, click on the “Edit My Profile” link on the left and adjust the settings to not show your birthdate, or only show the day and month.  Keep in mind:  This advice applies to other personal information as well.

3.  Don’t invite the world

Many settings in Facebook default to “Share with Everybody”.  Unless you want the world to read your posts, view your pictures, and access your personal data, consider adjusting the privacy settings.  Most everything can be set to be viewed only by yourself, your friends, or friends of friends.  You also have to option to give only certain groups of friends access to certain information.

4.  Protect your children

Do not tag or even mention children’s full names in posts or captions.  If somebody else tags your child, remove the tag.

5.  Keep your whereabouts to yourself

If you are about to leave your remote million-dollar home on a remote 20-acre lot for a 4-week vacation in Europe, you might not wish to share this information with the world.  Posting dates and duration of your vacation on Facebook is almost like posting a “Nobody’s Home – Please Rob Us” sign on your door.

6.  Keep other people’s whereabouts to yourself

Alone at home?  Nobody needs to know.  Neighbors are on a cruise?  Wait until they’re back to ask for pictures.  Your friend’s husband is gone for the week?  Keep it to yourself, esepcially if she doesn’t post it in the first place.  Be considerate and help protect your friends.

7.  Don’t allow search engines to find you

Prevent strangers from accessing your information by ensuring that the box for public search results is NOT checked.  From the Account tab, select Privacy Settings, then click Applications and Websites (bottoom left).  UnderPublic Search, click the Edit Settings button and make sure the box is NOT checked.

8.  Friend your kids

Facebook limits its use to people aged 13 and above…  which doesn’t keep younger kids from using it.  The problem is – what they think is nothing might result in serious problems. (Posting “Ugh, gotta do dishes – Mom’s gonna be back from work soon” can be too revealing about the family comings and goings.)   If your child has a Facebook account, ‘friend’ him or her to monitor online activities. You may even consider making your e-mail address the contact information for the account, in order to keep an eye on what’s going on.  And – talk with your kids about the risk of giving away too much personal information.  (Need a reason to get their attention?  Check out this post!)

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