How Staying Off Social Media Can Keep You Safer & Happier This Summer

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Let’s face it, there’s no bigger downer than working all day and coming home to images of other people’s awesome vacations — that is, nothing except maybe coming home to find out you’ve been robbed or had your identity stolen.

According the Pew Research Center, 65% of adults use social media, and among people aged 18 to 29, the percentage skyrockets to more than 90% of the population. For a family with kids, a staggering amount of information finds its way onto potentially public forums. As usage increases, so too does the risk of identity-related crimes.

FOMO Gets Real

The good folks at Merriam-Webster added about 2,000 new words to the company’s unabridged dictionary this year, among them, “FOMO,” an acronym that stands for “fear of missing out.” This fear has created an environment where hundreds of millions of social media users overshare every morsel of their lives as a quid for connecting in a virtual setting with others who have a similar unquenchable thirst.

Unfortunately, this type of over-sharing — and, even, FOMO, itself — could be leading to bigger issues.

Feeling Depressed?

It really could be FOMO. Studies have shown that the fear of missing out causes anxiety and depression, and that it can resemble addiction. And here’s the problem with that: The attendant distraction level produced can open the door to mistakes. Distraction is all a thief needs to scam you. FOMO exposes you and your family to crime.

A good fraudster or scam artist can use all kinds of information — things that seem completely un-useable to the non-criminal mind — to profit at your expense.

And, if you don’t think getting robbed should count as an identity-related crime, consider the fact that burglars and identity thieves routinely scour social media to find targets — including people who are on vacation. The home address and current location of a social media user can be relatively easy to figure for a savvy surfer.

While a lot of FOMO happens on social sites like Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook or YouTube, there’s plenty happening by way of text, too, especially among young people who can easily generate hundreds, even thousands, of messages in no time.

On the texting front, with so many texts whizzing around you and your kids, it is way too easy to click on a phishing link that downloads malware, and from there it’s just a matter of time before you are scammed.

FOGRO (Fear of Getting Ripped Off)

The antidote for all this fevered activity? FOGRO, or fear of getting ripped off. And while, admittedly, it isn’t as much fun to say, it might be a step in the right direction.

The key to rightsizing FOMO might be admitting it could be a problem. That may be all it takes to instill a little fear of getting ripped off, and with that, a slightly less reactive connection to the media we use, whether social or person-to-person communication.

Even a momentary pause before posting or clicking can mean the difference between a normal day and a nightmare.

Talk about the pause button with your family, and why it matters.

Since it seems unlikely that current trends in social media use are going to take a turn for the safer, I thought it might be helpful to review how to best navigate social media so it’s use is more secure.

Rules for Safer Social

  1. Set privacy settings as tightly as possible. Don’t let strangers see anything that can be used to verify your identity or that of your children (date of birth, email address, place of work, home address, schools attended, places where you’ve lived, maiden names, etc).
  2. Don’t interact with strangers, and talk to your kids about what it means to accept followers on the various accounts they use.
  3. Since there are bragging rights attached to likes and followers, make sure your family understands what kinds of information can be used to scam you.
  4. Nothing personal: I know people who refer to their children by number on social media, and others who wish happy birthday to their own kids online with everything but his or her Social Security number. Less is more (security) when online.
  5. Never click a link that’s texted to you, and make sure your kids don’t either.
  6. Turn off location services. This feature isn’t necessary on social. Location services tell people — including crooks — where you are and where you aren’t. Don’t use this feature.

Remember, you’re always one click away from trouble. (If you believe you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you may want to monitor your credit. You can view two of your scores, updated each month, for free on Credit.com and view your annual credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com.)

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