Social media is a great development in communication.
We can use platforms like Facebook to stay in touch with faraway family and friends, no matter where they may be.
Despite the millions of people using social media on a minute-to-minute basis, most folks don’t trust it…
A whopping 96% of baby boomers don’t believe social media platforms protect their account information — and 94% of Gen Xers think the same.
It may surprise you, however, that 93% of Gen Z — the generation that seems to be the most dependent on technology; most received their first cellphone at age 10 — are generally distrustful of social media.
Millennials are the most trusting generation when it comes to social media — only 92% of them are wary of it. That’s right, even the generation most trusting of technology still clocks in above 90%.
Regardless of where your level of trust currently is… let me just say this: It pays to be prudent.
Social media is a double-edged sword. As easy as it is for you to find your childhood friend with whom you lost touch… or that strange traveling aunt who’s hard to pin down… it’s just as easy (maybe even easier) for cyber malcontents to find you — and your personal information.
Luckily, there is something you can do about it.
Here are a few steps you can take today to keep your information a bit safer on social media.
Revisit Your Privacy Settings
On most social media sites, privacy settings boil down to two categories — ones regarding what is displayed on your profile and others that specify who can see your account in the first place.
When you make a social media profile, you’re required to provide a few personal details — like your name, birthday and email address.
As these platforms have evolved, they’ve all modified their privacy policies. This is a good thing.
But — they haven’t all been great about keeping their users updated. Which means any information you’ve provided in the past may be visible on your current public profile.
This is a bad thing.
Since it’s the most popular — with nearly 2.5 billion monthly users worldwide — let’s take Facebook as an example. To review the content on your Facebook profile, follow these steps…
On your Facebook profile page, navigate to “Settings.” There should be a small, downward-facing arrow in the upper right corner of the page. If you click on it, you should see a dropdown menu with “Settings” as one of the options.
Starting with your “General Account Settings,” verify that your account information displays what you want — and how you want it.
Under “Privacy” you can change who can see what information you choose to share. Click the “Edit” button to the right of any information you want to restrict and select “Only Me.” Now only you will be able to see it.
Making your way down the left-hand menu, check and adjust each section. These account changes are saved automatically. Whenever you’re finished, you can go back to being a social butterfly — just a little more safely.
One other thing — under “Security and Login” be sure to enable two-factor authentication if it isn’t already enabled. I highly recommend adding this layer of security whenever available.
With two-factor authentication, not only is a password required to log in to an account but also some other code or password sent to you by email or text. This makes it much more difficult for someone else to gain access to your account — even if they do get ahold of your password.
Follow a similar process for all your social media accounts — Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. — enabling two-factor authentication wherever possible.
All right, so you’ve got your social media accounts shored up — what’s next?
Think Before You Post
I know this sounds like common sense… but it’s easier said than done when you’re in a hurry.
Before you post something, analyze it from a hacker’s perspective. Look at any photos you share and examine the background. Are your house numbers visible? Is the license plate on your car readable?
And what if you zoom in?
I’ve seen teenage drivers proudly post a photo of their new license with all their personal information… first-time homebuyers share a smiling photo that clearly shows their new address… and people of all ages posting pictures of gifts they receive — jewelry, expensive electronics and the like…
Not only do photos like these invite digital theft, but they also give brick-and-mortar thieves a good idea of what valuables you have in your home — and exactly where they are.
On that note — it’s also a bad idea to share photos of keys. As crazy as it sounds, some criminals are able to duplicate a key based off of just a photo.
Similarly, don’t post about your amazing vacation until after you’ve returned — and avoid “checking in” to places on social media.
In addition to broadcasting where you are, you’re also telling people when you’re not home.
Of course, adjusting your privacy settings and being careful about what you post will only go so far. The best way to protect your personal information is securing your home network.
How? I’m glad you asked…
Your First Line of Defense
A VPN — which stands for virtual private network — is an application you can download onto your devices. It works by routing your device’s internet connection through the VPN’s private server rather than your internet service provider (ISP).
When your data are transmitted to the internet, they come from the VPN rather than your computer, concealing your IP address.
This is key — each IP address is unique. If a hacker can find out the address of your computer or your network, they can also find out what sites you like to surf, where you shop — and more.
So basically, a VPN acts as an intermediary of sorts, obscuring your location and protecting your identity.
What’s more, any VPN worth its salt will encrypt your data. So if your data are somehow intercepted, they will be unreadable until they reach their final destination.
Note that while these apps are free to install, they’re not free to use. They require a subscription — not just a one-time purchase. But they’re worth it for the peace of mind alone.
Which brings me to the final step I want to talk about today.
We’ve partnered with VPN service provider TunnelBear to bring you this opportunity to try their service for free.
Then install it and give it a whirl. I daresay once you’ve gotten a taste of safer surfing, you won’t want to go back.
Lucille St. John
Managing editor, Unconventional Wealth
P.S. VPNs may sound like a bit of advanced, foreign technology. Maybe one day, long ago, that was true. But it’s not now. VPNs are simple, easy to use and an essential piece of safety equipment if you’re online today.
And our favorite VPN provider, TunnelBear, is so confident you’ll enjoy the extra safety… and find it so easy to use… that they’ll give you a week free to try it out.
(Editor’s Note: We do receive compensation when you buy from TunnelBear. But we only choose partners we believe in — so you can rest assured our recommendations are real.)
Lucille St. John
Lucille St. John is the managing editor of Unconventional Wealth. A gentlewoman and a scholar, Lucille never received much in the way of a financial education. But what she lacks in fiscal knowledge she makes up for in taste.
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