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Just about anyone who has been on the internet has heard of Facebook, Myspace, and other social networking sites.  Everyday more and more people are creating accounts, logging in, and connecting with people all over the country and across the world.  While these social networking sites are great for finding old friends and making new ones, they also attract sexual predators, con artists, and hackers all with the intention of using the website as a means to harm you or a loved one. In this article we will examine some of the simple ways you can set up your accounts to help ensure your safety online.

Of all the major networking sites, Facebook has become the most popular by far.  Therefore we will be looking specifically at Facebook in this article.  Some of this information may be common sense to long time Facebook users, but for those just starting out it will prove very useful.

Before we get into specific safety tips, I’d like to share with everyone a story that I recently witnessed firsthand involving Facebook.  In one of the classes at the college I attend we were assigned to pick a topic relating to safety and community policing and report on it.  Topics ranged from undercover work to K-9s.  One group however decided to cover the very topic we are discussing, Facebook safety.

The two young men in the group were both 21 years of age but created a profile claiming to be a 16 year old girl who would be attending a local high school.  They picked a random person who attends the high school and decided this person would be their “target.”  The goal of the experiment was to see if they could obtain the target’s personal information.  So using a fake name, fake pictures, and a fake account the group began trying to friend people from the high school to legitimize their fake account.  After about a week they had 260 friends and had plenty of people looking forward to meeting their false identity in real life.  They were unable to friend their “target” however so they friended her sister instead.  The sister accepted the friend invite and from there the game was on.  Using information from the sister’s page, the two young men were able to obtain detailed information about the whole family.  Had the young men actually been criminals and not criminal justice students, they had obtained all the information they needed to do whatever they were planning to their “target” without her ever even friending them.  These young men had never tried anything like this before, so imagine what someone who was well practiced at it could do.

The thought of predators online stalking your children or even you is a scary one indeed, but there are things you can do to protect yourself and your children.

Tip 1:  Maximize your profile security options.  After you log into your account there is an option in the top right corner called “Account.”  Clicking on it gives you a drop down menu, select Privacy settings and you will get several areas you can then go into including profile and contact settings.  Within each of these areas are several more options where you can actually set your privacy level.  The three options are for everyone to be able to see the information, for friends of friends , or for friends only.  Set every option to friends only.  This will give you complete control over who sees any of your information as you control who you friend.

Tip 2: Only friend people you know!  There is quite a bit of ego involved in how many friends your page says you have.  The quest for running up your friend numbers can be very dangerous to you!  If someone you don’t know sends you a friend request you should most likely just ignore it!  If you just can’t help your curiosity however, you have the option of sending them a personal message to find out who they are why they are friending you before actually accepting.

Tip 3: Be careful what pictures you post online.  A  professor of mine once said, “Once something is on the internet it is on there forever.” He is absolutely correct.  Pictures that are from something as harmless as a block party could lead directly to a predator on Facebook gaining all the information he or she would need.  Any pictures with addresses, license plates, or easily identifiable landmarks around where you live could be potentially dangerous!

Aside from dangerous predators you would be incredibly surprised who looks at Facebook pictures.  Businesses often look at your Facebook profile when doing a background check! While we all like to post pictures of our weekend exploits on Facebook, some pictures are better off just left off your profile because you never know who could be looking at them.

Tip 4: You don’t have to enter real information!!!  Unfortunately while you can set your security to friends only, this security feature can be easily hacked by anyone who knows what they are doing.  If you enter your phone number, address, or any other information online hackers can easily obtain it.  If a friend wants to call you, email you, or contact you in some way they can easily send you a private message and you can give them the real information.  There is no reason to enter your real contact information.

Tip 5: Be careful of what activities, bands, local venues or other local information you enter.  If there is something only local to your area such as a food stand or movie theater, predators can use that information to hone in on your location.  Even something as innocent as posting what high school you play for and what sport you play can turn into dangerous information for predators to use.

Tip 6: If your children are using Facebook, make sure you are monitoring it.  Being a young man myself my teenage days are not too far behind me so I know all about the whole privacy teenage thing.  Facebook and other online mediums however have the strange effect of children throwing out the “don’t’ talk to strangers” rule.  You should be well aware of who your children are talking to on Facebook.

Tip 7: Remember, not everyone is who they say they are! Unless you actually know the person from real life, always be skeptical when dealing with an unknown person on Facebook.  They could be who they say they are, or they could be someone completely different.  The kids who friended the fake profile from the story above were quite surprised when they found out the young attractive 16 year old girl was actually a 21 year old college student!

These are but a few tips that can help with your online safety.  Online safety extends far beyond Facebook and some of these tips are useful in all areas of online safety.  If you have any other tips or ticks you would like to add feel free to post them in the comments section of this article.  Or you can email them to me at mat@trumanburger.com.  Thanks for reading and stay safe out there!

Categories : Internet Marketing
Comments (49)

I am compelled to tell this story.  Although it may put me on the couch for the next five years, minimum.

The background

Residence:  Sunny Florida

Population:  Seniors and Palmetto Bugs (American Cockroach)

Wife:  Slightly bug phobic

The stage:

Predawn hour.  My wife, in her pajamas, is feet up in the recliner.  Our finicky girl cat, Kwan Yin, is on her lap, upside down.  Our 15-pound cat, Odin, is resting comfortably 5 feet up on top of the cat condo, snoring lightly.  Her fresh brewed cup of coffee is on the table to the right.  She has just breezed through her morning routine of the Sudoku puzzle and Scramlet puzzle in the local newspaper.

I am sure you can see where this is heading.

The action:

She lays down the newspaper with a contented sign.  All is well with the world.  Both puzzles knocked out, leaving some time before she heads for the home office.  She reaches to the floor on the left of the recliner, to pick up a zipper binder containing a SEO manual she has been reading.  She was very careful not to twitch a muscle, as the girl cat gets upset very easily.

She gently lays the binder across the arm of the recliner and the table and opens it up.  Just as she is about to remove a page, she lets out a blood curdling scream.  I am sure the neighbors on the next street over heard it.  A very large Palmetto bug comes out of the binder and scurries (that’s right, they are very fast), behind her on the chair.

Next, in less than 5 seconds:

She knocks the binder, upsetting the table it was resting on, sending the pens flying.  She scrambles to get out of the chair with the feet still up.  (this is a 53 year old, slightly over-weight, under exercised woman), still screaming.

The upside down cat leaps over the table, knocking the coffee cup over, streaks towards the glass patio door and runs full tilt into it.  She careens off the door, bounces off the gray cat and flies into another room..

The snoring, gray cat on the condo comes off in a single leap, knocking over another table, sending the contents flying around the room, runs into the girl cat, bounces into the kitchen.

I, of course, am still sitting in my recliner with my feet up, saying in my most manly voice, “What, What?’  Refusing to admit that for two seconds, I was hanging from the ceiling by my fingertips.  My wife is still walking around the room going, “heebie jeebies, heebie jeebies.”

The cats are still refusing to talk to her.  And I still smile when I see the cat smudge on the door.

Where is that darn video recorder when you need it.

Categories : Internet Marketing
Comments (43)