Staying safe on social media
Personal Security

The World of Social Media Safety

Social media is the anchor of our social lives. Sometimes it can feel like we’re running on “likes”, but it’s all fun and games until someone gets hacked. Arkose Labs, a fraud and abuse prevention platform, reports of social media:

  • 40% of login attempts are fraudulent.
  • 20% of new account registrations were fakes.
  • More than 50% of the scams are by humans, not bots.2

So we can’t let our guard down when it comes to social media security and privacy awareness. Read on to learn ways to help protect yourself!

Keep personal info, personal

Currently, there are over 3 billion active social media users.2 Most people on social media sites have no evil or dangerous intentions, reports the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). But some people see fraud opportunities because of easy-to-access information.3 Social media accounts are prime targets for cyber theft.

So, what do these fraudsters want with all this personal info? They’re using social media to steal payment processes, spread hostile information, and gather any info to use later to serve their needs.1:1 As you can see, it’s incredibly important not to volunteer vulnerable info that could lead to identity theft.

  • Don’t post or PM any banking, credit card, or other financial info.
  • Same goes for social security numbers or personal information like mother’s maiden name, high school, birthdates and anniversaries.
  • Do not “confirm” account or personal info with an unknown person.
  • Third-party applications, like quiz or game apps on Facebook, can be dangerous. Be careful with your clicking!
  • If you use any personal history as passwords or security questions, don’t share them.
  • Identity theft doesn’t see age. In 2012, 26% of victims were 6-10 years old.4
  • Always keep passwords and PINs private!

Create strong passwords

And speaking of passwords! Not only should they be kept private, but the stronger the better. In 2018, Twitter reported preventing 530,000 suspicious logins per day.5 Within the first three months of 2019, Facebook disabled over 2 billion fake accounts.6 And in 2019, the U.S. began a national security risk investigation into TikTok.7 So all this should make you consider creating passwords that are lengthy and complex with capitalized and lower-case letters, symbols and numbers. These tactics will help make them more difficult to guess.

  • Avoid simple dictionary words.
  • Again, avoid personal information.
  • Use different, complex passwords for each account.
  • Utilize two-factor authentication.
  • If need be, use a password manager!

Don’t overshare

Sure, it’s fun to see hundreds of “friends” or followers on social media, but chances are you don’t truly know all of them. It’s perfectly fine, maybe even safer, to be selective and only friend people you actually know. suggests only social networking with people you actually know to limit your shared personal information.4:1 That’s probably because identity theft and inappropriate posting is on the rise, especially among children.

If that frightens you, it should. With 95% of teens active on the internet, 82% of them report they’re uncomfortable with friends’ posts about them.4:2 So there is a huge potential for risk, and some users are being proactive for safety.

  • 74% of Gen Z use more than two separate passwords for accounts.8
  • 73% of Millennials think carefully about passwords.
  • 79% of Gen X worry about being hacked.
  • 33% of Baby Boomers use over 10 different passwords.

Take the following precautions:

  • Don’t “check-in” while on vacations or even around town. Both mean you’re not at home and could be burglarized.
  • Be careful with the pictures you post of your family, children, friends and yourself. You don’t know what little detail could help a scammer guess your password.
  • Volunteering job, school, address, or living situations can give criminals just enough to take advantage.
  • Be careful who you message. Unknown persons could sweet-talk you for personal info.
  • Don’t just accept any friend. You don’t know if a profile is fake and run by an identity thief.

Be aware of phishing tactics

Con artists can use many different phishing techniques, aka ways to try to gather your personal info and scam you. Be it an email, message, attachment or straight out questions, criminals are always looking for an “in” so think twice, or thrice, before you trust.

  • Rude or demanding tactics are big red flags.
  • Watch out for job offers or winnings that seem too good to be true, especially if they want your info first.
  • Don’t fall for prepayment appeals, info confirmation requests, or false debt-collection claims.
  • Beware of misspellings in messages and emails.
  • Money requests are big no-no’s.
  • Trust your gut. If it seems off, report them.

Enable privacy settings

Those privacy settings are there for a reason, to keep you safe. Don’t be one of the users who never changes a password, updates their preferences, or doesn’t bother to even look at the settings. Nearly 80% of social media users in the U.S. have changed privacy settings on their accounts or decreased social media use.9 Almost 25% of users deleted or deactivated their accounts because of privacy concerns.10

  • Go into your settings and check out what info you’re allowing in AND out.
  • Choose settings that only allow friends to see posts and photos.
  • Restrict who can contact you for friend requests.
  • Change who can find you by your email or phone number.
  • This isn’t a one-time jig. Check your setting preferences regularly.

Be careful using public computers and Wi-Fi

Sure, public-use computers and free Wi-Fi are awesome, but they could come with a price. If you aren’t careful, cyber criminals could easily steal accounts, financial info, passwords, and more because open connections are usually unsecured, unencrypted, and leave the user vulnerable to a man-in-the-middle attack. A MITM attack is when a cyber thief gains access to info that goes between you and the websites you use, such as passwords.11 Don’t give hackers the advantage!

Keep your antivirus software updated

If you’re on a computer, you should have antivirus software. According to Norton Security, computer viruses, malware, and cyber criminals are always a threat, but antivirus software could keep your computer much more secure.12 So even though nothing is 100% protected, updated antivirus software is a good investment to keep your info safer. Antivirus software can:

  • Shut down computer operating system vulnerabilities.
  • Stay current on new threats from hackers.
  • Protect against viruses, worms, malware, and spyware.

The internet is forever

Remember, what you put out into cyberspace stays there. Take precautions now to avoid regret later. Only share personal info with those you trust, keep your passwords strong, don’t take the bait on phishing tactics, be smart about privacy settings, and keep your antivirus up-to-date. And as my mom used to tell me (and still does), “Now go have fun, but be careful who you talk to.”

Staying safe on social media


  1. Pandey, V. (2020, February 26). Human-driven Fraud Attacks Rose 90% in Last Six Months. Retrieved from Arkose Labs: 
  2. Clement, J. (2020, July 15). Number of social network users worldwide from 2017 to 2025. Retrieved from Statista: 
  3. Staff. (2019, March 15). Security Tip (ST06-003) Staying Safe on Social Networking Sites. Retrieved from Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency: ↩︎
  4. Staff. (n.d.). Social Media Guide. Retrieved from Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency: Media Guide_7.pdf 
  5. Staff. (2019, February 4). Retrospective Review. Twitter, Inc. and the 2018 Midterm Elections in the United States. Retrieved from Twitter: 
  6. Rosen, G. (2019, May 23). An Update on How We Are Doing At Enforcing Our Community Standards. Retrieved from Facebook.com 
  7. Roumeliotis, G., Yang, Y., Wang, E., Alper, A. (2019, November 1). US opens national security investigation into TikTok. Retrieved from CNBC: 
  8. Christopherson, L. (2017, June 21). Online Security Through The Ages. Retrieved from Last Pass: 
  9. Staff. (2019, October 3). New DuckDuckGo Research Shows People Taking Action on Privacy. Retrieved from DuckDuckGo: 
  10. Perrin, A. (2018, September 5). Americans are changing their relationship with Facebook. Retrieved from Pew Research: 
  11. Staff. (n.d.). Why hackers love public Wi-Fi. Retrieved from Norton: 
  12. Staff. (n.d.). Operating System and Antivirus – Always Up To Date. Retrieved from Norton Security Online: 
Sarah Sumner
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