How to be safe on social media.

Last updated: 24 November 2015

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With the rise of social media platforms, an ever-increasing array of apps and the popularity of handheld devices like smartphones and tablets, it’s never been easier to share all your favourite pics and videos online.

But according to Get Safe Online Week (20-26 October) more than half of the UK’s population have been a victim of online fraud in one form or another. Although the majority of this is likely to be in an e-commerce environment, it’s always good to stay safe whatever you’re up to online.

So carry on sharing, tweeting, posting and Instagramming – just follow these top tips for staying safe and secure:

Browse safely.

There are plenty of fake websites that’ll happily take your money. Double-check the web address for spelling mistakes, because even the domain name could be a giveaway. Replica sites are certainly on the rise and be vigilant when a ‘friend’ decides to share one of them with you on a social media site.

Shop safely online.

A legitimate online store will usually have a Verisign portal as part of their security process, so look out for this. It means the store is verified and secure. Once you land in the checkout area, you should see the ‘http’ change to ‘https’ on the address bar. A padlock should also appear and this lets you know that you’re in an encrypted area that can’t be accessed by hackers.

Sharing on social media.

Social media has become far more user-friendly than anyone ever imagined, but to enjoy sharing - without inviting any untoward attention - follow these simple rules:

  1. Use privacy settings.

    Social networking sites give you a fair amount of control over your own privacy settings. So don’t just use the default settings. Check out the settings, configuration and privacy sections to see how you can limit who can see various aspects of your personal information. Facebook probably has the most privacy options, where ‘no one’, ‘friends’, ‘friends and networks’, or ‘everyone’ can see basic info, personal info, photos, friends and postings.
  2. Avoid accidentally sharing personal details.

    You wouldn’t put a note on your front door saying: “Away for the weekend – back on Monday”. But asking “What are you doing right now?” on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram seems a lot more innocent. However, unless your account is completely private, it’s easy for details to slip you wouldn’t otherwise tell friends or strangers. So just be aware of what information you put out there which could fall into the wrong hands.
  3. Learn how sites may use your information.

    Social network sites are typically free to use which means they make their money by advertising.
    They’re also collecting information about you. Is your information shared with outside companies and partners? What information can third-party plug-in software, such as Facebook Applications, use from your profile or page content? Review the site’s privacy policy and watch closely the privacy settings you can control.
  4. It’s not a popularity contest.

    The person with the most ‘friends’ isn’t necessarily the winner in social networking. On a personal account it’s best to only friend people who really are or have become your friends. Your personal information has less opportunity for misuse. If you do get an unsolicited invite to connect, check them out first and try to figure out how you know them (or if you even do at all).

Got any other tips for staying safe on social media? Tweet @ThreeUK with your suggestions.