Consumer Advisory Bulletin-September 2011
Safe Social Networking
Through social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google+, you can keep connected with
friends, family and groups. But those same sites can also connect you to strangers, scammers,
spammers and sexual predators.
While many sites offer varying degrees of privacy protection, your postings, profiles, pictures and
personal information you’ve shared could be available indefinitely to complete strangers. If you
don’t want a loved one, a teacher, a college admissions office, or a current or future employer
to see something you posted, you shouldn’t post it.
You should always be leery about anyone you have met online, and children should NEVER, EVER
“friend” a stranger. That online stranger could be an adult predator pretending to be a lonely young
person. A predator may push hard to try to meet you in person, and may already know a lot
about you because of what you have shared or posted.
Even messages that appear to come from friends you know can come from criminals, as hackers can
find ways to access accounts. One common way they access passwords is by clicking the “Forgot
your password?” link on an account page, and answering security questions using information you
may have previously posted online or provided directly through a chat. Hackers can also send links
that appear to come from someone you know, called e-mail “spoofing,” and those links may contain
malicious computer viruses or “spam.”
Tips for Users and Parents
. Privacy controls: use them!
Your privacy controls let you manage the profiles, pictures and information that others can access.
. Assume that anyone can see your posts and pictures forever!
. Choose your "friends" carefully.
Criminals can assume identities by creating fake profiles.
They may try to seek personal information, hack into your account, or attempt to exploit children.
. Parents: talk about the rules and know what your child is doing online.
A child, like any user, can access social networking sites through computers and smart phones. Talk about privacy settings, sharing personal information, "friends," inappropriate chats, meeting someone they only met online, consequences of postings, and online bullying.
. Always use malware software and keep it up to date.
. Be wary of quizzes and surveys.
Assume companies are selling the information you provide.
. Report scams, abuses, threats and inappropriate material to the social networking site
If you believe someone committed a crime, report it to police.
To file a complaint, write to the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. Call 515-281-5926 or 888-777-4590 (toll-free.) The web site is www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.org.
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