Social media is a powerful tool to share life events with friends and family. However, there is such a thing as oversharing and people should be wary of sharing too much online. Hackers are becoming more clever at gaining personal data and causing havoc in people’s lives.  
Check out these must-know tips for keeping it real and staying safe on social media:
    Protect your identity. Never share personal information, like your social security number, home address / phone number, date of birth, PIN numbers, or banking and credit card info. Omit any information that, when pieced together, could give a scammer the ability to gain valuable information about your financial life. For instance, sharing the state of your birth can ease the process of obtaining your social security number. Sites like Facebook offer privacy settings that limit who can see this type of data, but it’s better to play it safe and leave personal information out of your profile altogether.
    Use privacy settings to your advantage. It’s ok to limit who can see information about you online. Don’t just accept the default for who can see what type of information about you. Check out Settings, Configuration, and Privacy sections to see what protections are available. 
    Limit job history posted on sites like LinkedIn. Posting too much information can make identity thieves’ jobs too easy. Having a full work history can be used to complete a loan application and provide tools for guessing PINs and passwords. This is also good practice for recruiters and sales professionals who need to keep their network contacts confidential so competitors don’t steal clients. 
    Avoid posting plans to be away from home. As much fun as it is to share details about an upcoming vacation, wait until you return home. Advertising dates you will be away or posting that you’re having a great time in Cancun is an invitation for robbers to come by while you’re gone and rob you blind. That also means you should limit posting the same activities at the same time on a daily basis, posts such as “off for my daily Starbuck’s run” or “can’t wait for my Thurs. night fitness class”. These posts don’t contribute much to your social media content anyhow, but those with ill intentions are able to put together your lifestyle patterns and know when you are away from home.
    Google search yourself. It’s a great idea to periodically do a Google search on your name to see what comes up (or for more detailed info. use a background checking service like BeenVerified). There may be someone that shares the same name but lives in a different state and has a tarnished reputation. This will allow you the opportunity to make changes in public information listed about you. Misinformation could be keeping you from future employment and credit.
    Social media is not a popularity contest. Only befriend people you know or have recently become friends with. Limit the amount of strangers who have access to your personal information. Be cautious when accepting “friend” requests and check to see how they know you before “friending” anyone.
    Keep your social circles small. Choose to participate in smaller networking groups like Ning or Meet Up. Narrowing the circles that you put your information out to will keep you safer from predators.
    Limit using check-in features. Limit the number of times you check into a business. Use it sparingly if you’re with a group or for a special occasion. Logging everywhere you go makes it easy for stalkers to track you (and find out how often you’re not home).
    Limit photos. Photo editing tools are all the rage, which makes online photo sharing risky. Photos can be lifted and used for any purpose the lifter chooses. Tagging photos can make your photos available to a larger group than intended.  
Social media can be fun, but it is also a powerful tool for people with less than good intentions. Protecting your personal identity and limiting personal information will go far in protecting your safety online and in real life. Use common sense and don’t overshare, and remember once you post on social media, it is there forever.
Justin Lavelle is the Chief Communications Officer at, the leading source of online background checks and contact information. BeenVerified allows individuals to find more information about people, phone numbers, email addresses, property records and criminal records in a way that’s fast, easy and affordable. 

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