Protect Yourself Online! Being social and active online safely takes special knowledge

Let’s face it – as much as we enjoy using the Internet, it is not always a safe place.  It takes a little knowledge and practice to avoid making silly or even dangerous mistakes that can get you in trouble or even place your safety at risk.

There are lots of little things that can get you in trouble. The list of problems and severe consequences are many.  You can embarrass yourself, or your friends or family, you can encounter scams, crooks, and online predators.  You can be the victim of identity theft, have your bank accounts raided, ruin your reputation, and have your life turned upside down.

Don’t let these things happen to you!

Mark Weinstein, CEO and founder of www.sgrouples.com, a privacy-centric social platform, is an expert in protecting personal privacy and information. Here he offers up the most important ways to protect yourself:

1. Know that Not All Sites are Private

They may appear to welcome you with happy, open arms, but don’t go frolicking and clicking around unless your computer has the appropriate malware, adware and anti-virus programs installed to protect you . Before you sign up and leave your name and email anywhere, be sure to read the privacy policies of the sites you use the most to ensure that you don’t get burned. Taking just a few minutes now could save you from permanent harm.

2. Differentiate Your Passwords

It’s tempting because it’s so easy, but don’t use the same password for all of your online accounts. If someone gets a hold of it, one hack gets into all your systems. they can do dame and raid all your accounts. Get a notebook and create unique passwords for each site. Add random numbers and special words to make them more difficult for others to guess.
Protect each and every site from unwanted intruders.

3. Be Careful Linking Accounts

Don’t automatically link all your accounts and apps. There are lots of friendly sounding applications that will happily allow you to log on to one program, (like Facebook) and simultaneously have your posts linked and posted on other sites (like Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and more). The danger is that one or more of these sites will actually allow 3rd parties to share your information with each other, which give all of them free access to your accounts and personal information without your knowledge.  This is dangerous. Make sure you don’t set your accounts up this way and check your third party’s permissions & privacy settings to prohibit sharing without your express permission.

4. Turn Off the Automatic Geolocation Feature

If your geolocation is on, everyone will know where you are and when you are not at home. You announce to the world “Go ahead and break into my house right now!”  Protect yourself from online predators by turning off geolocation on all your apps. Stop letting people know where you are at every moment of the day. It’s simply not necessary or wise to announce to the world you are at the coffee shop.  Be selective and send a private text message and leave a light so someone looking at your home thinks someone is there.

5. Search Yourself

Put your name in and search for yourself on any search engine. See what there is to see. Sure it may be gratifying if what you find is favorable, but if you don’t like what you find, you can take steps to remove anything written about you by contacting the manager of the site or using sites that help clean up your online profile.

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask People to Remove Content

If a friend posts inappropriate comments or pictures involving you, don’t be afraid to click “remove” and ask them not to do it again. Publishing a person’s picture usually requires some sort of permission. You can also revoke that permission to post a photo if it is not something you want to be made available to the world. We all need to learn to respect each other’s privacy.

7. Think Before You Post

No matter what sort of website you have or type of social media platform you participate on,  post only content that you would feel comfortable with the whole world seeing.  Think about what you are about to post and who it focuses on.  Relationships are strained and often broken by posts that were not intended to be shared. Think about the consequences of sharing in the community. Will anyone be embarrassed or humiliated? Will someone be hurt or harmed in any way? Think before you click. Mistakes can be hurtful and can cost you a job, relationship, or entrance to the college you really want to attend.

8. Clean Out Your Friends List

Clean out your “friends” list regularly. Over time it can be hard to remember who you’ve friended and therefore who you’re sharing information with. By keeping your list of friends current you can help protect yourself from awkward moments and personal information breaches. Take out people who you don’t know or don’t want to know and share with. Pay attention to the bad actors. Get rid of them.

9. Do NOT Give Out Your Phone Number and Personal Address

Do not give out your phone number or your home address on a social networking site. There are people who will grab those phone numbers and use them in fraudulent texts, phone calls and voicemails.  Know who you are communicating with. Share personal information carefully and deliberately, only with people you truly trust. Use the phone, email or text message and do not broadcast personal information to the world.

10. Exercise Caution Meeting in Person With Someone You’ve Met Online

The safe rule of thumb is only meet in person with someone you’ve met online if you have someone with you and you meet in a very public place.  And extra caution must be used.  Even dating sites have predators attempting to scam or otherwise harm you, so be careful.  Predators can use the information they find about you on networks like Facebook and other data rich online sites to lure you into a dangerous situation.  Don’t trust anyone you don’t truly know.

Improve your knowledge of how to protect yourself from being social and active online. Use common sense and pay attention to your inner alarms. Trust your instincts! If something seems creepy, stay away!

For more information, visit www.sgrouples.com.

About the author, Mark Weinstein

Mark Weinstein is a leading privacy advocate and the creator/founder of SGROUPLES.COM, The World’s Private Social Network. Sgrouples’ users connect with people they know in the real world (friends, loved ones, co-workers or associations, etc.) through many powerful features, like private groups, photo and document sharing, personal cloud storage, and direct one-on-one messaging, creating the ultimate social experience that replicates real life. Sgrouples users are protected by its revolutionary Privacy Bill of Rights with no tracking or cookies monitoring user activity or data.

Sgrouples has been featured on Fox News as well as in FORBES, INC, ZDNET, and many other media outlets.

Mark is an Advisory Board Member of the Future of Privacy Forum, as well as a Steering Committee Member of National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC), a White House initiative.  Sgrouples has been honored by the Online Trust Alliance for its dedication to user safety. Mark has been named “Ambassador of Privacy by Design” by the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, Canada.

Mark is the online community and social network pioneer who founded SuperFamily.com and SuperFriends.com in 1998 — precursors to today’s social networks. Mark is also the author of the “Habitually Great” book series, endorsed by Stephen Covey.

Mark received his B.A. from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and his M.B.A. from the Anderson School of Management at UCLA.

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