6 Ways to Stay Safe on Facebook

Safety Guidelines of Social Media and

The Stories That Remind You the Danger is Real

This is a true story. Brace yourself, ‘cause it’s a doozy.

We utilize sites like Yahoo Answers to send traffic to our site; I’ll answer questions about social media or internet marketing and provide a relevant link to one our blog posts with more detailed information. It helps a relevant audience find us, particularly when we can help them most, and it sends traffic to our site. It’s a win-win for all parties involved.

Unfortunately, to find questions relevant to what we do, this means going through dozens upon dozens of questions that often resemble “help, my mom won’t let me use my Facebook” and “how do you know if your crush is looking at your Facebook page,” most of which are typed all in caps with some fairly extreme punctuation.

I recently stumbled upon a question from a sixteen year old who was asking people to log in to her account since her mom wouldn’t let her, to check a response from her fiancé, and to let her know what it says back on the very public Yahoo Answers. She actually posted her password on the site (it was real password, and a real account, I checked).

Of course someone “hacks” into her account, changes her picture, posts a bunch of horrible things (they took screen shots), and changed her password so she couldn’t access it again. They then changed the password to her e-mail address (it had the same one), and likely had access to a ton of even more private information through her e-mail. I watched all this go down over about ten minutes. After he’d entertained himself, he posted a new password for her. She immediately deleted the entire thread.

While this is a more extreme case, and the person in her account was most likely just playing a prank instead of actually being truly dangerous, it did raise some alarm bells about how much of our lives—and our safety—we sometimes put in social media sites like Facebook.

stay safe on Facebook
“It’s scary to think about how much of your life strangers can see from the other side of the screen.”

Whether we give strangers access to our accounts via handing over passwords or, more likely, over-sharing or having lax privacy settings, there’s a lot of ways users are putting their safety at risk on the social media site, opening their door to crime online and in real life.

We’ve become so reliant on social media sites like Facebook we forget how dangerous they can be. You can easily and accidentally give strangers– sometimes danger ones– a look into your entire life. It’s scary to think about how much of your life strangers can see from the other side of the screen.

To protect yourself and your information on Facebook, make sure you follow these 6 rules (and remember the stories that come with them) to stay safe.

1. Share Only with Friends 

There are different levels of security and privacy settings on Facebook, but it’s always heavily recommended to only allow your friends access to what you show on your profile. This includes pictures, posts, and your personal information.

In order to adjust your security settings, go to the drop down menu at the top right, the same place where you would log out. Scroll down to settings.

stay safe on Facebook

Once the settings page opens, go to privacy settings. From here, you can make sure that only your friends are seeing your information that you post.

stay safe on Facebook; Facebook precautions
Added tip: you can choose custom groups among friends to see (or not see) certain posts. When navigating a Facebook filled with family, drinking buddies, and co-workers, this can come in handy.


2. Avoid Over-Friending

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 2.56.20 PMSometimes it’s hard to turn people down when they send you a friend request. Maybe you have mutual friends, or you kind-of-sort-of knew them once, or maybe they just look friendly. It doesn’t matter. If you don’t actually know them, don’t add them. If you have those types of friends on your profile now, go delete them.

All those security settings that you have set so that only your friends can see your information become null and void when you start adding strangers or vague acquaintances to your friends list. Keep your Facebook for people you actually know in real life to reduce any threats to your safety.

3. Don’t List Personal Information

A surprising number of people list extremely personal information like their addresses and phone numbers on their Facebook. Most of them argue that they’ve made sure only their friends can see this information.

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But is that guy who sits in the corner of your chemistry class that you talked to once so you friended on Facebook really someone you want to have your address? Would you give him either your home address or your phone number? Probably not, and though you may not think of it that way, he now has both.

Particularly when you combine listing personal information with anything other broken rules from this list, you’re setting yourself up for trouble. While a lot of people don’t realize how big of a deal it is, it can be a major security hazard, and keeping it to yourself is the way to go.

4. Keep Your Plans to Yourself

When you’ve got a vacation or a particularly exciting outing coming up, it’s understandable that you want to shout it out to the whole wide Facebook world. It’s better to resist the temptation.

About a year ago, my neighbor posted on Facebook how he was excited to leave for a weekend vacation the next day, but how much he’d miss playing his brand new expensive gaming console with the dozens of games he’d gotten for his birthday. Oh, and he’d miss the enormous, top of the line TV they just bought.

Guess what? The next night, my dog woke me up snarling at the front door. I looked outside and couldn’t see anything, but at about two AM and home alone I heard the distinctive rattle of someone trying to open my (thankfully locked) front door. My dog started jumping on the front door and barking, and by the time I got there, no one was to be seen and the cops couldn’t find anyone.

Low and behold, the next day someone realizes the neighbor’s back window was shattered. Cops were called, the neighbors vacation was ended abruptly, and they came home to find that every expensive electronic in the house had been taken and nothing else. Call me crazy but I don’t think it was a coincidence.

So, to recap: the neighbor posted when he was going to be gone in the same post describing all of his wonderful, expensive objects just sitting there waiting to be stolen like they were ripe for the picking. He got his house robbed, and he put the rest of our neighborhood at risk, too.

Whether you’re going to be gone for just a few hours or for a month, post about it afterwards—not before.

5. Keep Sensitive Information Off Facebook Entirely

I once had a friend who sent her husband her bank account number, password, and log in through Facebook’s private message system. It was only going to be seen between the two of them after all, right?

A few weeks later her Facebook got hacked and, you guessed it, some crazy things were happening in that bank account a few days later. Fortunately they were able to track the guy who hacked his way in and it all worked out ok, but you get the idea. There have also been reported problems of some naked photos sent via Facebook’s messenger appearing in other unwarranted places online.

Facebook is hardly Fort Knox, particularly when you consider that most users’ passwords are the same basic passwords (pets names, etc) that they use for everything else online. Sending any sensitive information through a Facebook message isn’t a good idea and can lead to security problems down the line.

6. Don’t List Your Full Birthday

When you call a doctors office to talk about a health concern or prescription refill, what do they ask for to confirm your identity? What about when you call your insurance company? Or just about any other institution that has secure, private information about you and your life?

They ask for your full name, and they ask for your birthday. Every now and then they’ll ask for a home address, but anyone with Google and some barely-developed search skills can figure out an address nine times out of ten.

If you want to have your month and date of your birthday listed, that’s fine. Just skip the year to help protect your information, and make sure that only your friends can see the month and date.

Check What Other Users See on Your Profile

If you want to double check that your security and privacy settings are functioning as you think they are, there’s a way to do that.

When you go to your profile, next to your cover photo you’ll see an ellipses next to the “View Activity Log” option. Click on the ellipses. It’ll give you the option to “view as.”

safety on Facebook; dangers of Facebook

You can view your profile as a specific friend, or you can view your profile as the public sees it. This way you can make sure that you aren’t accidentally sharing any information you don’t want to.

staying safe on Facebook
My public settings (adjusted for the example) show past work history, education, and my hometown, along with most recent profile pictures. Nothing else can be seen.

Facebook is a fantastic tool for entertainment, communication, networking, marketing, and even business purposes. We just have to remember to stay safe on Facebook while we’re using it.


Don’t forget to make sure you’ve logged out of your account when you use a public computer or a friend’s computer to access Facebook. Not only does leaving your profile open on a public computer put all of your information at risk, it puts your friends information at risk too, because a stranger now has access to everything they’re posting, too.

To check where you’re logged in, go to the security settings, and scroll down to “where you’re logged in.” Click on it.

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You can see every device you are currently logged into, and, if necessary, “end activity” and log out that device from this screen.

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You’ve now heard a few of my crazy Facebook stories. Do you have any to add to the list?

Leave us a comment and share your story!