How can you protect yourself on social media?

Sharing information about our personal lives is a fundamental part of communicating on social media - so how can you do it without putting yourself, and others, in danger?

Cyber stalkers and scammers rely on people whose innocent and celebratory posts on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram inadvertently reveal more than they intend.

Proud new home owners taking a selfie outside their front door with the number showing?

Posting a photo of your child's first day at school in their new uniform?

Sharing images of your new car (with only one shot including its number plate) to friends including your work colleagues?

In three posts, criminals can join the dots to build a sophisticated picture of the lives we lead.

Here are five key ways to communicate safely on social media:

  • Take extra caution in what - and when - you share

Got the keys to your new home? Share the news without giving your address away. Credit: PA

Most of us wouldn't reveal sensitive information like home addreses, phone number or bank details.

But the more you post about the specifics of your job, daily movements and social lives the easier it is for identity thieves to strike.

Posting a selfie seconds after taking it tells scammers and stalkers immediately where you are and what you're doing.

Sharing the moment with friends a day - or even a few hours - later, when you're no longer there, can protect you.

  • Select your friends carefully

Fake accounts are rife online so take extra care when you add new people that they are who they say they are.

Some are obviously fake, using unfamiliar language or including an unlikely demand or too-good-to-be-true offer or prize.

But it's easy for a more sophisticated scammer to quote a related friend or use information gleaned online to appear to be linked to your social circle.

Check in person with your related friend and then add them.

  • Take stronger security measures and renew them

If a thief got their eyes on your Facebook messages what would they learn? Credit: PA

Choose a strong password only you can remember, change it regularly and use a different one for each of your social media accounts.

Password protect your phone.

Ask yourself: if a thief got their hands on my phone what would stop them from accessing my personal accounts, conversations and emails?

If the answer is not much, you need to beef up your security.

  • Familiarise yourself with privacy settings

Different social media channels have different settings that you can customise.

Read them and use them. It'll help you to protect who sees what about you.

  • Use antivirus software

For those primarily using social media through a computer, installing and maintaining antivirus security software is fundamental to safe browsing and sharing.

Most people choose it when buying a new computer but many fail to renew and are left with operating systems and software that soon become out of date and vulnerable.

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