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May 02, 2013

4 Tips for Safe Social Networking for Older Adults

Social media networks like Facebook and Twitter can be a great place to keep up with friends and family. But, as is the case in almost any community, there are some people who are up to no good. Scammers and identity thieves can troll social networks for unsuspecting users or those who give away too much information. Luckily, staying safe online often comes down to using common sense.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when you’re using social networks.

  1. Be Guarded With Your Personal Information: Social media sites are a place for sharing. While it’'s harmless to describe your likes and interests, don’'t share personal information like your home address or phone number, your social security number, or any kind of banking or financial information with others on social network sites. It'’s best to keep your social media settings on private, so only your friends can see personal biographical information about you, such as your birth date or your hometown. Regardless of your privacy settings, it’'s safest not to post anything to a social network site you wouldn'’t want available to the general public.
  2. Be Wary of People You Don'’t Know: Social networks make it easy to find people who have similar interests. You can even strike up friendship with folks you frequently talk to on social networks and in online forums and chat rooms. It'’s great to get out there and meet new people, but be wary of folks who offer financial advice, offer to sell you something, ask for money, or pry for too much personal information. They may be trying to scam you. Watch out for people who claim to have a personal emergency and play on your sympathies to borrow money. The best policy is to never give money or any financial information to others on social networks. If your family and close friends need your help, they know how to contact you in person.
  3. Look Out for Unsolicited Financial Offers: The Securities Exchange Commission warns seniors to be wary of people offering investment or financial help on social media networks. Look out for “red flags” — if it sounds too good to be true, if there'’s a promise of substantial gain at little risk, if it'’s an investment outside the U.S., or if you’re pressured to buy now. These are indicators of a scam. You should do your banking and investing with a trusted financial advisor at a reputable business. Don'’t fall for get rich quick scams online.
  4. Be Leery of Links: Just like you get junk mail in your email account, there are junk posts on social network sites. They often make claims or offers like, “How to lose five pounds in just one week,” or, “Win a free vacation cruise,” followed by a link. Don'’t fall for the trap by clicking on the link. These posts can be especially deceiving because they'’re often shared by trusted family and friend’s accounts that have been hacked or infected with a virus. If you click on the link, there’'s a good chance your account will be automatically spamming out these messages to people in your network. The best policy is to be very careful about clicking links to unknown websites, especially when they’'re making some kind of offer.

Learn more about social networking for seniors by checking out the Kendal Northern Ohio blog.

photo credit: Matt Hamm via photopin

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