How many times have you checked your social media accounts in the last hour? What about in the last ten minutes? If you’re like most people (me included), the answer is probably at least once, if not more. A record number of 4.9 billion people use social media worldwide, so it’s safe to say it's here to stay. With the allure of staying connected to the people in our lives both near and far and staying up to date with what’s going on in the world around us, it’s no wonder we get pulled into the glow of our screens.

It’s fun to document and share all the milestones happening in our lives, like graduations, baby’s first words, and unforgettable vacations! Posting things like our locations, new homes, or big-ticket purchases on social media may seem harmless, but the reality is that these actions could leave you vulnerable to identity theft and much more. When cybercriminals get ahold of your usernames and passwords, they can seize control of your online accounts.   

You might be thinking, “This can’t happen to me; all my social media accounts are set to ‘private.’” While most social media platforms do indeed allow you to set your profiles to “private,” the truth is that identity thieves monitor profiles and find ways to get through your privacy settings. That’s not to say you shouldn’t set your profiles to “private,” because you absolutely should, but don’t let the setting give you the illusion that you can share what you want, when you want, with zero worries. So, how do you share on social media without oversharing? We’re glad you asked! Here are some healthy social media habits to institute to keep your identity safe.

Don’t Talk to Strangers

So, now that all your social media platforms are set to private (right?), and you have that initial layer of security, keep it safe by choosing wisely before allowing others into your inner circle. Basically, don’t go friending everyone online (even if it’s a friend of a friend), and don’t accept friend requests from strangers. Sure, they could be harmless, but there’s also the chance they’re friending you to phish for your personal information.   

Two is Better Than One

Let’s talk passwords. While you should always use a strong password (and have different passwords for each online account in case one is compromised) at least 12 characters in length and consisting of a mix of alphabetical and numeric, upper and lowercase, and special characters, sometimes that’s still not enough to keep your accounts safe.

That’s where two-factor authentication, or 2FA, as you may have heard it referred to, comes in. 2FA is additional security and a great step you can take to protect your accounts and lessen the risk of getting hacked. The first factor is the strong password you’ve created, and the second factor could include a text with a code sent to your smartphone or biometrics using your fingerprint or facial recognition. 

Don’t Share Your Locations in Real-Time

When I go on vacation, I take a ton of pictures to capture those magical moments spent with my family, and, yes, I also like to share a few of them on social media for extended family and friends to see. If you’re like me—whether you’re taking a day trip to the beach or hopping on a plane for a two-week European vacation—wait until after you’ve enjoyed your vacation and you’re back home to post about all the cool things you did and saw during your trip. Today’s technology can pinpoint homes on map apps and help thieves figure out your exact address, so posting on social media ahead of time or even during your trip opens up your empty home and full mailbox to be robbed. #latergram is your friend on vacation.

Don’t Share Your Personal Information

Although not required, some social media platforms may ask you to add your date of birth, phone number, and address. I can’t stress enough that you should NEVER include this type of personal information on social media. This includes posting pictures that may have your personal information in the forefront or in the image's background. I get it, it can be exciting when significant accomplishments happen in your life, like passing your driver's exam, and the first thing you might want to do is share with the world via social media. But be mindful of posting pictures online of things like your actual driver’s license that include your name, address, date of birth, and driver’s license number. If you feel absolutely inclined to share your news, be sure to at the very least blur or obscure all your identifying information first.

Here are some other things you might not think twice about appearing in the background of a photo, but may reveal much more information than you intended: Your house (with house number/street signs showing), your child’s school with the name of the school in the frame, mail (address/full name), business cards, prescription bottles, etc.

In addition to the types of personal identifying information already mentioned, general information about your everyday life or past could be used to guess your password or security questions. For example, "What was the name of your first pet?" or "What’s the street name you grew up on?" are common security questions that cybercriminals can frequently find the answers to with a simple social media search on their target.

Ask Yourself This

In our current social media landscape, it’s so easy to overshare, but fortunately, it’s never too late to adjust your social media habits. If you try putting some or all these tips into play, you will give your identity the boost it needs to stay protected. However, if there’s only one change you make, this is the one—before you post anything on social media, stop and ask yourself if what you’re sharing could be used to steal your identity. If the answer is anything other than a resounding “NO,” you’re oversharing.
At GOLD, we’re committed to you and your financial safety. If you think you are a victim of identity fraud, call us at 484-223-4200, or visit to file a report and get advice to help fix any issues caused by identity theft.  

Laura Leinbach

Laura Leinbach

Laura is the Marketing Manager at GOLD. She is responsible for GOLD's communications to Members and future Members. She enjoys making financial information easy to digest and empowering Members to take charge of their financial futures.

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