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5 Tips to Protect Your Privacy While Using Facebook

Love it or hate it, Facebook is everywhere. It seems like everyone is "Facebooking" these days. The whole social networking phenomenon has millions of Americans sharing their photos, favorite songs and details about their class reunions on not only Facebook, but MySpace, Twitter and dozens of similar sites. With Facebook reaching 500 million users in 2010, find out how it could affect not only your social life but also your bank account.

1. Birthday and Hometown

When it comes to sharing your birthday on your profile take the same approach as your mother: Never reveal your true age. It may seem innocent enough, but many of your financial records are tracked by your birth date, location and age. Hackers trying to steal your identity will have an easier time if they have access to that information. If you don't want to part with the "Happy Birthday!!!" wall posts, you can keep up the day you were born but take down location and year.

How to Fix It:

  • In the upper right-hand corner of your Facebook profile click "Edit Profile".
  • On the left of the page click "Basic Information".
  • You have the ability to omit your hometown and current city.
  • To the right of your birthday there should be a scroll bar. Choose either "Show only month and day" or "Don't show my birthday in my profile."

2. Personal Information

If you've ever dealt with any website that requires a password you know the bizarre questions they ask to verify your login credentials. If you use your high school mascot, favorite pet, mother's maiden name or any other fact that others might know, it will make things easier for cyber-criminals trying to guess your passwords. Make sure there is nothing on your page that relates to your password so you avoid giving out any clues.

How to Fix It:

  • When protecting your profile double check: Old photos, Likes & Activities, Info about you. You may want to think about creating a new password that would be impossible to crack based off of any information you have online.

3. Contact Information

Do not post your home address or any links to it. This shouldn't require much effort, but many people forget they have their address on their profiles. Even if you don't have your home address on Facebook, do you have a link to your resume with your address online?

How to Fix It:

  • Double check everything you have online and make sure never to post where you live. If a friend writes you asking for your address give them a call and say it verbally.

4. Status Updates

People have become desensitized to privacy in our highly digital and technologically invasive society. Everyone has heard the horror stories of people writing status updates that have come back to haunt them in one way or another, but you may be revealing things you didn't even realize.

Have you ever had a countdown to a vacation? Or talked about your excitement for a weekend trip? Do not, under any circumstances, share your vacation plans. This is an open invitation for criminals to come and do some shoplifting in your very own living room. If you still want share, post the cute family photos of you sunbathing on the beach after you return home.

More and more employers are checking out Facebook profiles before they hire. Even if you enable privacy settings for people within your network, your future employer may know someone who went to college with you or lives in your neighborhood, allowing them access to your page. If you are already hired that gives you more incentives not to take out the stress of work on your status. Pretend that everything you put on your site is public information whether you block it or not.

How to Fix It:

  • You should monitor everything you put up. If you write a status update and can think of one person you wouldn't want seeing it, i.e. a friend, family member, coworker, or criminal - do not post it.
  • To make your profile more private: Click on "Account" in the top right-hand corner of the Facebook homepage and scroll down to "Privacy Settings."
  • Within the "Sharing on Facebook" section click "Custom." This will show what is shared and how others see your page. We advise making sure there are dots under "Friends Only." Click "Customize Settings" to make these changes.

5. Understand Facebook's security settings and use them

Most analysts called this step absolutely mandatory. You should find out where the security settings are on Facebook and take the time to learn how to use them to control what information is shared with people, applications and Web sites.

How to Fix It:

  • Click on "Account" in the upper right-hand corner of your Facebook page.
  • Then click "Privacy Settings."
  • People who want to set their privacy settings as tight as possible can select "Friends Only." Also uncheck the box marked "Let friends of people tagged in my photos and posts see them," and then click "Apply these Settings."

Facebook undoubtedly is an extremely powerful tool, but it also can be dangerous tool. The risks associated with posting information online are endless, so it's best to be overprotective and digitally elusive as opposed to being too welcoming. Facebook also offers information about its privacy policy, which could be beneficial to read.

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