Protect from hackers on social media

Mechele Agbayani Mills, Tyler Better Business Bureau

In a society ruled by communication and technology, social media is king. Given the active role it plays in our everyday lives, it is safe to assume it is here to stay. Even businesses are turning to social networking as a way to connect with consumers and other professionals. But, is sharing always caring?

Unfortunately, sharing too much personal information may put you at risk of identity theft or hacking. According to the FBI, hackers use social media sites to gain access to your computer or phone by installing unwanted software. Sometime referred to as "social hackers" or "social engineers," these hackers manipulate people through social interactions online.

According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police's Center for Social Media website, Facebook users share approximately 684,478 pieces of content every minute, and the average user creates 90 pieces of content each month. Once information is posted to a social networking site, it is no longer private. Remember, the more information you post, the more vulnerable you may become.

To protect yourself from potential hackers on social media, BBB advises:

n Secure your information. Be careful when entering sensitive information (credit card numbers, driver license number, Social Security number) online. Always make sure the website is secure by looking for the "s" in "https" at the beginning of the site's web address.

nMake strong passwords and change them often. Take time to go through your passwords and change them. Every three months is a good timeline to follow, but change them at least twice a year. Avoid obvious or easy-to-guess passwords. You should also avoid using your birthday, child's name or birthday, mother's maiden name or the last four digits of your Social Security number. Consider creating a unique password for each of your social media accounts.

nBe careful what you click. Just because a friend shares it, doesn't mean it is a safe link. When social media profiles are hacked, scammers can share viral links that will download malware on your computer. Hover over a link before you click and never enter personal information if prompted by a shared link. Also, be cautious of pop-up windows and keep your antivirus software up-to-date.

nDon't overshare. Never share your Social Security number on social media sites. Also, think twice before sharing your vacation plans away from home, or information that makes you vulnerable, as scammers and thieves could take advantage of you.

nCheck your privacy settings. Periodically, review your privacy settings on your social media accounts. Limit your profile views to only your friends and the people you trust with your information. Also, read the terms of service and privacy policy on social media sites, as it tells you exactly what the site can and will do with your information.

nThink before you post. Once a status or photo is posted, even if deleted, it is still somewhere in cyberspace forever. Use your best judgment: always ask yourself if it should be posted and think of the possible ramifications of the information shared.

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call the BBB Hotline: 903-581-8373.


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