AveryHess, Realtors® Blog

Use Caution When Merging onto the Social Media Highway

This weekend, as I logged in to my Facebook account, I was both shocked and surprised at one of my friend suggestions.   I discovered, via a ‘mutual friend,’ that my 82-year-old Grandpa is now on Facebook!  I don’t know about the rest of you, but for me this confirms that EVERYONE now utilizes social networks as a means to connect and reconnect with the people around them.

Grandpa Joe

After this discovery, while I was still a bit baffled after seeing my grandpa’s profile picture (which is from about 50+ years ago), I ran across an interesting statistic from a recent Consumer Reports study.  It stated that 2 out of 3 online US households use social networks such as Facebook and MySpace, which is nearly twice as many as a year ago.   One in four of these households with a Facebook account have users who either don’t know about or don’t use the privacy controls.

This got me thinking about my Grandpa… if people can find ways to hack the profile of one of Facebook’s very own Board Members, what’s stopping them from coming after my unaware,  little old Grandpa?  Or me?  Or YOU?

As Real Estate agents, it’s important to be friendly and approachable public figures, especially when utilizing social media. However, you still need to be smart and safe with what you choose to disclose to others online.

I’ve compiled a quick checklist of things you should avoid doing on social media to help keep you and your information safe:

Using a Weak Password

We’ve all been guilty of this one – with so many passwords to remember, it’s easy to give in!  Using a password like the name of your pet or your child’s name is big NO NO.  Hackers create programs that can easy crack these simple passwords in a matter of seconds, granting them full access to your account.  To help prevent this, I suggest using a password that incorporates each of the following:

a) use a password not found in the dictionary
b) include UPPER and lower case letters
c) include least one numer1c symbol or ch@racter

Posting Your Full Birth Date

When Facebook first started, I know I did not think twice about putting up my birthday to share with my fellow college classmates.  However, Facebook and other social media networks are now open to the public, and your information is out there for everyone to view.  Giving a stranger your full name and full birthday, along with other commonly posted facts about yourself, can leave you open as an easy target for fraud.   To counter this, many of these networks have the option of keeping your birthday private or showing only a partial birthday without the year.

NOT Using Privacy Controls

An important thing to remember when using any social media network is that they are run by a profit seeking company and are looking out for THEIR best interest NOT yours.  Privacy controls are available for users, but many require you to a) know about them, b) understand what they do and c) USE them.

Facebook has become notorious for changing their privacy controls and “auto including” their members in new features/settings.  It is your responsibility to make sure that you take the time to learn and set up these controls in order to ensure your content and information is only disclosed to those that YOU choose.

Facebook has recently redesigned their Safety Center which they claim has quadrupled their safety content and made it easier to navigate and find answers quickly.  It’s a great place to start to learn about what you are sharing/how to make things private.

Also, Mashable just posted a “How To” on reclaiming your Facebook privacy and suggested trying the product “Reclaim Privacy.”  It’s a simple open-source scanner that will quickly and easily scan your profile to see if any of your settings are “risky.”   This can help you determine if you are making content unexpectedly public and take the necessary actions to correct it.

Mentioning That You’ll be “Away”  & GPS “Tagging”

Telling people on Twitter or Facebook that you, “Can’t wait for vacation next week!!”  or that you “Miss the wife and kids at home”  or that you just “checked-in” to your favorite watering hole using foursquare, all seem innocent enough, but this “over-sharing” opens up the possibility of telling people where you AREN’T – at your home or with your family.  It could also invite unwanted persons to where you ARE.

Many people were first made aware of their “over-sharing” on social media by sites like pleaserobme.com or  by watching tv news specials, but quite a few of us are still sharing too much.   To protect yourself and your loved ones, be sure that you are properly using your privacy features on EACH and EVERY social media network you use.

It seems like every time I turn around privacy controls and settings are changing in the world of social media, making it even more critical that we stay informed.  I’ll be sure to help keep you and my Grandpa Joe informed and up to speed… if you promise to do the same for your Grandpa – I’m sure he’ll appreciate it.


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