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Staying Safer in Social Media

Union Bank cares about you and your family. As we are more digitally interconnected than ever, social media services have become important communications tools. However, social media when not managed properly by you may offer amounts of personal information that cyber criminals can easily exploit to engage in fraud, such as opening financial accounts in your name; and potentially other more dangerous crimes, such as breaking into your home because you posted on social media when you’d be on vacation.

When communicating in social media, you and your family should actively manage the security and privacy of your information. Consider the following suggestions to help you do so:
  • Do not post online personal information, such as addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, your or your family members’ full names. Create usernames that are different from your name.
  • Use hard-to-guess, long, alphanumeric passwords with special characters that are unique for each social media account, and different from the password of the email account associated with the social media site. If you have several social media accounts, consider using a Password Manager to keep track of your passwords. Visit our page on Choosing Effective Passwords for more tips on how to create more secure passwords. To add a layer of security to your account, when offered, set up 2-factor authentication. With 2-factor authentication, you need to access your particular social media account with your password and also with a code that you receive via a different channel, such as a mobile device.
  • Avoid connecting with strangers: Connect, befriend and "be followed" online, by people you already know. If you are following a celebrity on social media platforms, such as Instagram or Twitter, ensure that you are following his or her verified accounts. If you receive a "friend request" or a "request to be followed" from a stranger do not accept it. Know your friends’ list or followers’ list in your social media accounts. Sometimes a person who already befriended you requests to be a friend again. This second request may be a scam. As a general rule of thumb, it is good to verify requests, by contacting the person via a different channel.
  • Avoid oversharing: Cyber criminals and other cyber threat actors are savvy. They can easily piece together different pieces of information that you post and send you emails or create fictitious sites according to your interests to trick you to click on malicious content. Don’t become a phishing victim! To learn more about phishing visit our page on how to prevent Phishing and Vishing.
  • Be aware of tracking activities by different social media sites, search engines or Web servers that collect and analyze your searches, your likes, the applications you download and the purchases you make, to sell you additional products or services.
  • Avoid clicking on ads that may appear on the sidelines; they may take you to sites that download malicious software (malware) in your computer. Some of this malware can be spyware, then once downloaded to your computer, further tracks your online and computer activity. To learn more visit our page on Protect Your Computer from Spyware.
  • It is advisable to create an email account that you only use for your social media sites. If a social media site gets hacked, the e-mail account associated with it becomes vulnerable as well. Hence, it is a good idea to use a different e-mail account to conduct serious business, such as your online banking, insurance and 401K website set-ups, to add another layer of separation between this important or confidential information and any social media website. Also, be careful with whom you share your email addresses: Cybercriminals target existing email addresses to create fraudulent web-based accounts.
  • Keep a separation between the virtual and physical worlds: Be cautious of posting information while on vacation or stating that you will be away from home. Don’t be constantly posting where you are. You don’t want a cyber criminal to become a live criminal who may take advantage of this information and break in, or engage in predatory behavior.
  • If possible, turn off the geolocation settings from your social media accounts and mobile applications.
  • If you access social media via your mobile devices, make sure that you are downloading the legitimate official applications of the social media service from a reputable mobile application store.
  • Keep an eye on your children’s online behavior; set up some form of parental control on the browsers of your family’s desktops, laptops, and mobile phones, and block access to certain websites. You may need to block social media sites as needed, most social media sites require for children to be of 13 years of age to join. If you have younger children they shouldn’t be using social media. Often you can find these parental controls under "Settings" or "Options," when clicking on the top right corner of the browsers.
  • Set parental controls on your family’s mobile devices. Your own mobile provider may provide a suite of applications where you can monitor online behavior, block downloading certain applications such as social media applications, and track your child’s location via their mobile phone.
  • It is not just social media where children and teenagers could be exposed to strangers or where they may inadvertently post personal information. Online games may also be a place for that so monitor children’s access to them.
  • Teach children and teenagers to not engage in cyber bullying and to report occurrences and the websites where it happens to adults they trust. More importantly, teach them to understand the differences between the online/virtual world and the real world – teach them to not trust nor meet in person strangers that they meet online.
  • Check privacy settings on all your social media accounts: keep your pages and information as private as possible. For example, check that your Facebook page is viewed only by your Facebook friends and that it is not open (public) on the Web. Check other online profiles such as those in professional sites to limit their public exposure. Often these settings are under "Security," "Privacy," "Tools," "Settings," and "Advanced." The National Cyber Security Alliance has put together a great resource on its website where you can learn additional tips and best practice suggestions.
  • Be aware of the loss of control of the content that you post online the moment you have a social media footprint: Even if you are privacy and security conscious, you have no control over the behavior of others. Your friends may not be cybersecurity savvy, or they can still share what you post. Also, bits of your information such as your name or likes often still appear across social media pages.
  • Not just when using social media, but overall, try to browse the Internet using your browsers’ "Incognito" or "Private" tab/window options. This will not make you invisible but will prevent cookies from being stored so your search history will not be saved.
  • Use Safe Browsing sites such as "Google Safe Browsing" that give you warnings when you navigate to dangerous sites or download dangerous files.
And remember, keep your eyes open for fraudulent activity online. Always stop and think before engaging in any type of financial transaction or transmission of information online. Do not send money to strangers you have met online, even if you believe that you have established a strong personal rapport. These situations, sometimes called romance scams, are on the rise, so be cognizant. To learn more about protecting yourself from financial scams and other fraudulent schemes please visit our page on Fraud Education and Awareness.
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