With the onset of social media, people seem to have lost the concept of oversharing. Vacation pictures, baby updates, life achievements, location check-ins, and more consume our feeds. It’s not unusual to want to share what we are doing with our virtual friend network, but it is risky.

Have you ever considered that sharing this much personal information on social media can make you a prime target for identity theft?

Think about it. How many security questions do you have set as, “What is your favorite vacation location?” “What is your mother’s maiden name?” “What was the name of your first pet?” “Where did you and your spouse meet?”

How many of those answers have you inadvertently provided on social media?

Oops.

Social media is a preventable security risk. That doesn’t mean you can’t share your updates with your friends, it means that you just need to think carefully before sharing certain updates. We have a few ideas of how you can start protecting your identity on social media.

  1. Refrain from tagging your vacation destination
    When you’re out lounging on the beach and you snap a photo of the ocean, instead of instantly sharing it with the location tagged, hold onto that phot until you return home. Then, fight the urge to tag where you were. Tagging your location could reveal a security question answer to potential fraudsters.
  2. Don’t list family members
    While it is A-OK to call recognize family members on social media, only use first names. Never share information like maiden names or middle names, as these are common security questions.
  3. Keep your phone number private
    A lot of social media websites want access to your phone number and if you can’t find the “skip this step” button or if there is absolutely no way around it, make sure that information is set so that only you can see it. Although, the best choice is to not have it available at all.
  4. Celebrate your birthday, but hide your age
    Who doesn’t love hundreds of birthday wishes on their online profiles? It’s a fun way to celebrate with your virtual network, but it can leave you at a big security risk. Your birthday is a vital piece of your identity and putting it out into cyberspace for the world to see and it could be catalyst to your identity theft or the last missing piece. If you must have your birthday on your profile, leave out the year and make sure the security settings are for “Friends/Followers/Connections Only.”
  5. New house? Hide the address
    You just bought a new house and you excitedly shared a photo of you in front of it on Facebook, but the address is clearly visible. What’s wrong with that? Your address is another piece of your identity puzzle that can lead fraudsters right to you. Share that picture, but crop it and hide your house number, street, and neighboring houses. If you’re asked to enter your address and you can’t find the “skip” button, make sure the information is private and nobody can see it but you.

Social media isn’t the enemy. With a conscious effort, it’s not a risk at all. Secure your profile and don’t share information that you wouldn’t want to put anywhere else online. As Gandalf once told Frodo in the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, “Keep it secret. Keep it safe.”