In the current era of data mining, account hacking and identity theft, cyber-security has never been more important. And an area that many people leave insanely unprotected is social media, Facebook in particular. Crooks have begun using social media in a variety of ways, from pulling our personal information for identity theft, to paying attention to when you go on vacation in order to rob you while you’re away. And employers (even though they’re not supposed t0) ARE checking your profiles, people.

Fortunately, there are several simple steps that can be taken to lock down your Facebook account and slam the digital door in the face of would-be thieves and other prying eyes.

Settings

When logged in to your Facebook account, go to the down arrow on the right side of your notifications and requests. Choose Settings. This will take you to the Settings page, which will have several options to choose from on the left side menu.

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Step 1:  General

General Settings is the page where you can create or edit your name, username, e-mail account, password, networks and language.  It is important to know this page in the event you feel your account has been compromised or if you feel the need to change/edit your username to make it more difficult for identity thieves to search for you.

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Step 2: Security

There are several crucial settings under the Security Page. Number 1 on the list is Login Notifications. Enabling notifications ensures that you will be alerted by text or e-mail if someone logs in to your account from an unknown computer or device.

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Login approvals, code generator and app passwords all create an extra level of security, creating specialized codes which have to be entered to get into Facebook. These do require having your smartphone handy to use them, but you’re probably using Facebook FROM your phone regardless!

Trusted contacts create a list of friends who can help you get into your account if it becomes locked due to intrusion. Taking a look at your Trusted Browsers and Where You’ve Logged In are both important in not leaving an accidental back door open for crooks to come in.  Make a habit of checking this weekly and sign out of any logins – and apps (more on that in a sec) – that you don’t recognize.

And this is also where you can deactivate your account if you need to get off Facebook immediately. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that.

Step 3: Privacy

This is the page most casual users will spend the most time locking down and with good reason. Strictly restricting who can see, tag , post and contact you is extremely valuable. Parents, in particular, want to pay attention to this page when setting up a Facebook account for a youngster. The rule of thumb with most of these settings will be to keep them at “Friends” – though it’s important to know that this default changes based on your last status. If, for example, your last update was “public” then your next post will default to public as well. And you DEFINITELY want to review all items you’re tagged in before they hit your wall, so turn that option on.

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Beyond that, if you realize you have public posts and want to start over, the “limit the audience for posts shared with friends of friends or public” and will make EVERYTHING on your timeline “friends only.” You can’t change back once you do it though, so proceed with caution. Your wall will suddenly appear empty to restricted users and followers.

“Who Can Look Me Up” is an open-ended category that allows individuals to look you up using e-mail addresses or phone numbers. Set these restrictions to “Friends” or “No” to cut down on strangers sending finding you.

Step 4: Apps

Most people use apps of one kind or another on Facebook, whether it’s Words with Friends to one of the thousands of “personality tests.” On this page, you can go through a list of apps are connected to your Facebook account. And, as mentioned, visit this list regularly and weed out the apps you either don’t recognize or are no longer using.

The real issue can come from the “Apps Others Use” section. Apps your friends use can use your information “to make it a more social experience” for the person using the app. Go into this setting and uncheck all the boxes that have information you do not want to share.

Step 5: Ads

Currently Facebook does not allow third party apps or ad networks the right to use your name or picture in ads. However, it is something that could come up in the future, where something you’ve posted could be used in a third party ad. On the ads page, edit the “Third Party Sites” to “No one.”

Additionally, Facebook looks at things your friends share and like and use it to populate your newsfeed and right side navigation with ads that they think would also appeal to you. Edit “Ads and Friends” to “No one.”

Step 6: YOU

And the biggest privacy intrusion – that you invite – is posting crazy opinions on public pages. You really shouldn’t do that as you never know who might see it, get annoyed by it – and screenshot it for your employer (that you foolishly listed publicly on your page). The info you freely offer in your “About” is probably another post entirely – just know to review it, carefully review the privacy levels on each category – and consider what you’re sharing and how it could be used against you.

Also, check each photo album for privacy. Using the “view profile as” option is always a great idea to see what the public can see.

The keys to staying on Facebook – or any platform – are preparation and vigilance. Understanding how to lock down accounts is part of the equation, but common sense is the larger – and entirely undervalued – missing piece.

Top image courtesy of Shutterstock .

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