Admittedly, social networking sites are a great place to meet new people, advertise and put yourself out there. You can post information about yourself, communicate with others from all over the world, and reconnect with friends and family members. On our MySpace and Facebook pages we often enjoy the forums, interest groups, posting blogs and emailing our “friends” and clients.

If you are concerned about your privacy, understand that social networking can constitute more of a privacy risk than anything else you do on the web. It is a cold hard fact that there are bad guys on the web and your identity and personal information is worth big bucks to them. Sure, you can make “real” friends and clients through social networking sites but remember you could very well also be exposing yourself to scams, hackers, identity thieves, rip-off artists, and sexual predators.

In fact, just the other day I noticed an interesting seminar advertised on Facebook and I noticed you could RSVP to the seminar on their Facebook page and add it to a calendar application on your own page. Hypothetically, if I had sent my RSVP on Facebook, anyone could find out what town I live in, where I planned to be next Wednesday, not to mention plenty of details on me just by viewing my picture or profile.

Here are some great everyday, common sense precautions to protect yourself when creating your social networking page:

They can’t steal your personal information if you don’t make it available online.

Don’t put sensitive data on your social networking page. Specifically, protect financial and other sensitive information (Social Security number, address, phone numbers, bank account or credit card numbers).

You are being watched.

I like to think of some profiles as biographies in cyberspace. You can really read and see some interesting things on people’s profiles. Keep in mind that police, your teacher, current and future employers, stalkers, sexual predators, con artists, Private Investigators, Fugitive Recovery Agents all can gain access to your profile. Yes, we have caught a few unsuspecting criminals on social networking sites. So, bottom line, don’t divulge in anything about yourself, your friends, or family members that you wouldn’t want to the world to know! If I don’t want my mother or boss to read it, I don’t post it.

I lock all my doors at night, how about you?

Keeping my doors locked at night minimizes the risk of intruders. Social networking sites have similar safeguards. Customizing what you want to reveal and utilizing the privacy settings on these sites will minimize the risk of unwanted visitors to your site. The key here is to understand how the site works and what privacy choices you have. If you don’t customize your settings then the whole world can find you.

What you see is NOT always what you get.

Creeps are on the loose everywhere, especially in cyberspace. There is a good possibility that your new   cyber  friend is not who they portray to be; anyone can download a photo and set up a profile. I am not a huge advocate of meeting  cyber  friends in person, just because of the obvious risks involved BUT if you decide to meet someone in person, do it during the day in a public place, ask for personal identifiers that you can verify, such as where they might be employed.

Protect your investment.

Always download anti-virus software, anti-spyware software, and Firewall protection for your computer. Criminals are scanning social networking sites everyday to find their next victim.

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Admittedly, social networking sites are a great place to meet new people, advertise and put yourself out there. You can post information about yourself, communicate with others from all over the world, and reconnect with friends and family members. On our MySpace and Facebook pages we often enjoy the...