Maximus and Ginger’s pup, Daisy is growing up fast and active on all of the social networks.  She posts everything from pictures of what she is eating to how she is feeling on any given day.

She checks in at every dog park everywhere she goes and tweets at her groomer at the doggy salon.  So when her parents told her they were going on a vacation to Hawaii, she immediately updated her status to “Two weeks until Hawaii! Can’t wait to spend a week in Maui with my whole family!” Unfortunately, not everyone viewing her profile is a friend and now everyone on earth knows when her whole family will be out of town, leaving an empty house. These same people also know that the family will be busy having a blast and won’t be checking their bank accounts or emails, leaving a nice wide window for identity thieves to do their nasty deed.

Okay, obviously dogs can’t tweet, but you should think about whether your little pup is doing the same thing.  Are your kids hyperactive on social media? Do you know everything they are posting? Maybe you are the one who is guilty of oversharing.  Whoever it is, the act opens you up to invasions of privacy, identity theft and even worse. In the Age of Information, you need to make sure your information is protected. Here are a few tips to protect your privacy while using social networks:

  • Check your Privacy Settings and Monitor Them Often: Most social networks will put your security settings at the lowest setting possible by default. You need to make sure that you go in and change them to protect your privacy. In addition, social networks change their privacy setting arrangement often, and they don’t always tell you.  So make sure you go in every once in a while and make sure your profile is still as private as you think it is.
  • Do Not Accept Friend Requests From Just Anyone: Anyone can make a Facebook profile and use any picture they like. This means a profile that says it belongs to a 15 year old girl in California may, in fact, belong to a 46 year old man in Tennessee. You can imagine the dangers of this situation.  So, if you don’t know the person in real life, don’t add them. This is an extra important tip to pass along to your children.
  • Disable Geolocation on Your Phone: When taking pictures to share online, it’s important to disable the geolocation or location settings in your smartphone or camera before taking the picture. This function, known as “geotagging”, allows smartphones to embed time and date stamps within the picture’s file, along with the GPS coordinates of where the photo was taken. That information gets shared with the photo when you post it online. A picture of your backyard can give the location of your home to anyone with a computer and a little know-how. To disable geolocation, simply switch the location settings to off in your device’s main menu before taking pictures, but remember you’ll need to reengage the location settings in order to use certain apps, like your map or navigation apps.

If you do think you may have shared a bit too much information online or want to know more about how you can limit what people can see on your social profiles, you can access the help of the Identity Theft Resource Center through our new mobile app.  Download the ITRC’s free ID Theft Help mobile app available on the iTunes Store for Apple devices hereor Google Play for Android devices here to get helpful information on further protecting yourself.  You can even talk directly with a trained victim advisor free of charge right from the app through the LiveChat feature.  You don’t have to delete your Facebook account or stop Tweeting, but make sure right next to your social networking apps is your identity theft help backup, the free ID Theft Help Mobile App from the ITRC.

This product was produced by Identity Theft Resource Center and supported by grant number 2014-XV-BX-K003, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.