Social networking sites such as Facebook may be wonderful ways to keep track of friends and family, but they are also home to tens of millions of anonymous strangers. More recently, they've become the stomping ground for a growing number of people who aren't who they claim to be.
Faking an identity is a big deal in the world of social networking and it can hit you in a number of ways. Maybe there's someone out there claiming to be a friend. Maybe there's a friend claiming to be someone else. Or perhaps there's even someone claiming to be you.
The point is that faking an ID on a social networking site isn't very difficult, yet the potential damage can be devastating. Here are some simple tips to help you avoid falling for a social networking scam:
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1. Adjust your privacy settings. Make sure the information you post is only seen by the people it's intended for. Recognize the difference between the areas of a social networking site that are private and those that are public, and post with that in mind.
2. Don't randomly click on every link that pops up. Beware truncated links and delete or ignore anything you can't immediately identify.
3. Never transfer money or arrange any kind of financial transaction over a social network. If you receive a request for help from a friend, always contact the person by phone before you take any action.
4. Social networking quizzes, games, or free apps are not always as innocent as they seem. If you are asked to divulge any personal information to win a prize - such as a telephone number or date of birth - then skip the fun and uninstall the app.
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5. Regularly change your password. Also make sure you use different passwords for your social networking pages than you use for your online banking or other sensitive accounts.
6. Do not respond to pop-ups encouraging you to meet new friends or take any action that's unusual.
7. Save information or suspicious activity as a precaution. If you do become a victim of harassment or a scam, save the exchanges and any other information that's relevant. You may need it later when you're trying to mitigate the damage!
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Monica Vila is the Chief Technology Mom and co-founder of The Online Mom, the market leader in providing online and off-line tools to make parents of kids K-12 smarter and more comfortable with the technology that touches their family. The Online Mom is a website, an online newsletter, a forum for discussion, a network of certified experts and a 500,000-strong twitter community devoted to promoting a healthy understanding and appreciation for the positive role technology can play in a family's life.
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