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Using Social Media Wisely

Social networking websites like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and Windows Live Spaces are services people can use to connect with others to share information like photos, videos, and personal messages.As the popularity of these social sites grows, so do the risks of using them. Hackers, spammers, virus writers, identity thieves, and other criminals follow the traffic. Here are some useful tips and hints for staying safe while enjoying social media.

Use caution when you click links that you receive in messages from your friends. Treat links in messages on social media sites as you would links in email messages. Be selective when choosing what to click on and what not to.

Know what you've posted about yourself. A common way hackers break into financial or other accounts is by clicking teh "Forgot your password?" link on the account login page. To break into your account, they search for the answers to your security questions such as your birthday, home town, mother's maiden name or high school class. If the site allows, make up your own password questions and don't draw them from material anyone could find with a simple Internet search.

Don't trust that a message is from who it says it's from. Hackers can break into accounts and send messages that look like they're from your friends, but aren't. If you suspect that a message is fraudulent, use an alternate method to contact your friend to find out. This includes invitations to join new social networks.

Don't allow social networking services to scan your email address book. When you join a social network, you might receive an offer to enter your email address and password to find out if your contacts are on the network. The site might use this information to send email messages to everyone in your contact list or even everyone you've ever sent an email to. Social networking sites shouls explain that they're going to do this, but some do not.

Type the address of your social networking site directly into your browser or use your personal bookmarks. If you click a link to your site through email or another website, you might be entering your account name and password into a fake site where your personal information could be stolen.

Be selective about who you accept as a friend on a social network. Identity thieves might create fake profiles in order to get information from you.

Choose your social network carefully. Evaluate the site that you plan to use and make sure you understand the privacy policy. Find out if the site monitors content that's posted. You'll be providing personal information to this website so use the same criteria that you would to select a site where you enter your credit card information.

Assume everything you put on a social network is permanent. Even if you can delete your account, anyone on the Internet can easily print photos or text or save images and videos to a computer.

Be careful about installing extras on your site. Many social networking sites allow you to download third party applications that let you do more with your personal page. Criminals sometimes use these applications to steal your personal information. To download and use third party applications safely, take the same saftey precautions that you take with any other program or file your download from the web.



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