Information You Should Never Share Online (But Probably Have)
We use social media to connect with friends and share ideas with people all over the world. Even so, there is a need for some caution. There are daily examples of situations where social media posts have landed people in hot water.
Sharing too much information online can put a person’s safety at risk and cause them to lose money and jobs. Here are the worst bits of personal information to share on social media.
Everyone likes to brag a little on social media. That’s why it can be very tempting to post tickets when you’re going to a big game, concert or some other event. Nonetheless, this is a big social media no-no.
While it’s not too likely if you only share pictures with a small group of close friends, thieves can hypothetically use photos to counterfeit your tickets. When you post a picture of a ticket, unscrupulous people can print the barcode on their own fake one. Someone could use your post to steal your seat.
Getting your first credit card, or an especially prestigious credit card, can be a huge achievement. That’s why so many people want to share their joy with the world by posting pictures of their credit cards on social media. Unfortunately, any scam artist can use those pictures to start making purchases in your name.
While some websites are strict enough for this not to work, for others, a credit card number is all a thief needs to make purchases in your name. Highly skilled scam artists are even capable of creating their own credit card with your credit card number.
Kids (Especially if They Aren’t Yours)
Kids are cute, and people want to share every little adorable thing they do, but social media is not the best place to do that. Unfortunately, there are people in this world who want to harm children, and information and pictures posted on social media make it easier for them to target specific children.
For safety, some parents choose to never post their child’s picture on social media, so always ask the parent first before posting a photo of someone else’s child. In rare cases, custody agreements prohibit a parent from posting their own child’s photo online.
Although there are privacy settings, social media is not very private at all. Police departments and government agencies can subpoena social media developers for anyone’s posts and pictures, even ones that have been deleted. It’s also extremely easy for hackers to hack into social media accounts.
Assume that nothing you post, even in social media messages, is actually private. Remember that the group of people you allow to see your posts and messages can always take screenshots or even download your photos. Don’t handle private business or send private pictures over social media.
Venting About Your Employer
People have been fired for complaining about their jobs on social media. We live in a very small world, and social media makes it even smaller. That boss you can’t stand could be the social media savvy grandmother of your college roommates’ best friend. Even if you’re not friends with your co-workers, they could still see your posts.
If you wouldn’t want everyone in your office to see it, don’t post it on social media. This seems like a simple rule, but it’s so easy to look at social media as a personal place to vent.
Social media may feel like a personal thing between you and your closest friends and family, but every time you make social media posts, you are posting content to the Internet. This means what you say is extremely important.
Saying something that is unkind is one thing, but publishing something that is unkind can create a legal problem. It can constitute harassment, libel or defamation of character. Many people have been sued for posting harmful gossip on social media. Stick to Thumper’s rule: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
That Silly Declaration
One thing that can make people think less of you is sharing bogus posts on Facebook. For instance, one popular post claims that by sharing it, you are making it impossible for Facebook to share your pictures without your consent. Similar posts claim other legal benefits as long as you share a particular post.
Nothing you post on Facebook can change the user terms you agreed to by signing up for Facebook. If you disagree with any terms laid out by a social media platform, the only likely recourse is to stop using that platform. Rather than appearing ignorant by sharing something many people know is untrue, it’s best to do your own research on any such posts you choose to share beforehand.your reputation.
Your Phone Number
Most people lose their phones at least a couple times in life and end up needing to get all of their friends’ contact information again. One common workaround is to post your phone number on social media and have people text you their info, but just because a lot of people do it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
The downside of this approach is that it opens up a deluge of robocalls at best and at worst, it risks exposing your number to people you don’t want to have it. A better option is to ask people via private message or email for their info, but the most secure option is to get it in person.
Google Images makes it easy to find pictures, but most of the results in a Google search are owned by photographers or agencies. When you post something on social media, you are legally publishing content on the Internet, and that can cause problems if it’s not yours.
The owners of a picture can sue you for posting it on social media. While Disney is unlikely to send a bounty hunter after you for that pic of Baby Yoda, legal battles over social media posts have happened before. It’s more likely to be a problem if the posts are for a business purposes.
It’s best to refrain from posting about other people’s private moments on social media. Funerals are an extremely emotional time, so the urge to post can be extremely strong, but that’s also what makes photos taken then potentially contentious.
While personal and cultural sensitivities vary, many families may be upset to learn that a mourner posted pictures of their loved one’s casket or body on social media. Posts have the power to spread farther than your circle of friends, and no one wants to unexpectedly run across a photo of their dead loved one in their newsfeed.
Big News (That’s Not Yours)
Pregnancies, engagements and adoptions are all huge milestones in life. When friends and family hit these milestones, people often want to share their joy with the world by posting on social media. However, it’s best to allow these people the time to share their big news themselves before you post it.
Due to the lack of true privacy on social media, sometimes it is best to refrain from posting about other people’s major life events at all. The person may not want your friends to know their news. Out of respect for privacy, leave these kinds of announcements off the internet.
Fundraisers (That Aren’t Legitimate)
Scam artists take advantage of every avenue they can. When you share a fundraiser, whether it be a GoFundMe page or anything else, you could inadvertently involve your friends in a nefarious scheme.
Beyond simply taking your money fraudsters can also steal the banking information of the people who donate to fake causes. If you cannot verify that an online fundraiser or cause is legitimate, don’t post about it. Fundraising websites have tools that can help you determine if a cause is actually a scam.
One of the main benefits of social media is the opportunity to chronicle your life through posts and pictures. Because of that, it can be tempting to post images of legal documents that may represent years of hard work, patience or love, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
Adoption papers, marriage licenses and closing documents are a few of the documents that shouldn’t be posted on social media. Even if you are careful about the positioning of the picture, it’s easy for sensitive information, such as your social security number or address, to end up posted for the world to see.
Threats to Public Safety
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t make threats, but what about re-posting a threat that has been made by someone else? When schools are threatened by anonymous social media users, concerned parents, students and teachers sometimes share the posts with the good intention of warning others.
Nonetheless, this can cause confusion and hysteria since it makes it difficult for police to identify the true source of the threats. In one case, a student was visited by police for sharing a threat as a way of warning others. Report dangerous posts to police rather than sharing them with others.
Politics and Social Controversies
There are people with strong opinions on both sides of every issue. Most have very personal reasons for their feelings on hot button socio-political topics. However, if you go on rants about controversial issues, you can alienate yourself from some of your friends.
That’s not to say that politics should never be discussed on social media — after all, some issues are too important to let slide. The important thing to remember is that employers and universities may judge candidates based on social media. Angry rants make a person seem unbalanced and unreasonable, so try to moderate any political posts you write.
Slurs and Mean-Spirited Jokes
There is no place for slurs of any kind on social media. In some jurisdictions, the use of slurs on social media, especially when directed towards a specific person, could constitute a hate crime. Off-color jokes that do not include outright slurs can still be considered extremely offensive.
Even if you think these things are funny, it is best not to post, like, share, or retweet anything that is likely to be considered offensive. If you wouldn’t tell the joke to your parents or share it with your boss, don’t post it. Young athletes sometimes face consequences for things they posted as children.
Parties where dozens of unexpected guests show up have been the plot of plenty of sitcom episodes. It’s not nearly as funny when it happens in real life. Sharing party invitations on social media is not a great idea. People can share your invitation, and you may end up with rowdy uninvited guests.
Thieves can easily sneak into a huge party without seeming suspicious, and social media invitations have the potential to get shared with unintended recipients. Even when you share an invitation with limited viewership, privacy on social media is a very elusive front.
In today’s world, there’s so much pop culture that no one can possibly know it all. That’s great when it comes to looking for entertainment, but the downside of this is that not everyone is on the same page when it comes to music and television shows.
To spare your friends the heartache of believing something is wrong when you’re perfectly fine, avoid sharing referential posts that may seem like signs of trouble to others. If you need help, ask for it. If you’re okay, be careful with what you post.
Urban Myths and Shady News Stories
You may come across a scary news story and want to share it. Not only could the story in question be relevant to your friends and loved ones, but there’s also something morbidly captivating about the potential for disaster all around us. This is why stories about men taking pictures of children in IKEA or saleswomen knocking people out by forcing them to sniff perfume samples are so popular on social media.
However, just because a story exists on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true. The two examples above, for instance, are commonly shared but rarely confirmed by local police. There are enough real things to worry about. Don’t spread misinformation.
Whether you win $1 million or $100, excitement over winning the lottery could drive you to post your winning numbers on social media. However, it’s risky business to do so, especially if you haven’t already claimed your winnings.
Many lottery tickets have barcodes that can be replicated from pictures on social media. Scammers can even mock up fake tickets using your real number. It would be a shame to lose out on winning the lottery because a scam artist already claimed your prize!
Social media is one of the few places where bragging has become somewhat socially acceptable, but there are still some things that are just in bad taste. Posting stacks on stacks of money is a bad idea, and not just for the jealousy it may inspire.
Strangers could see that you have a lot of money and try to rob you. Additionally, although police don’t scour social media for criminals, pictures of lots of money could be used against you if you ever have any legal problems. It could give the impression that you did something illegal to get the money.
If you’re an artist, writer or any other type of person who makes creative content, be careful about the work you post online. Make sure your work is watermarked or copyrighted. Otherwise, other people and even businesses could copy your work and present it as their own.
Lizzo recently had to credit another singer for her hit song Truth Hurts because a tweet influenced her songwriting session. Moschino has been accused of cribbing art posted on social media. Especially if your art is your work, protect your passion with a watermark or copyright before posting it to social media.
Photos of Others
Private social media posts can go viral and change lives, and not just yours. Many people record or take pictures of strangers and post the content online. Most of the time, nothing bad happens, but this a very risky thing to do.
Depending on where you are, recording another person without their permission may be illegal. If your post causes damage to the other person’s reputation, they could sue you for defamation of character. The “Confused Face Meme Girl” has sued Instagram because of the way her image has been used without her permission. It has certainly been life-changing.
People who work in the medical industry should be extra careful when discussing work online. HIPAA is a federal law that, among other things, protects patients’ privacy. Clearly, you don’t want to say a patient’s name online, but there is more to consider.
Stories that are vague could still include enough details to violate a patient’s right to privacy. If a post contains too many details about a specific patient, it could be a HIPAA violation. This can be a very expensive mistake to make, as it can cost you your job and result in a lawsuit.
Buying a new car or a new phone is very exciting, but it’s a good idea to break the habit of making posts about these things. Publicly announcing that you have big-ticket items in your possession can make you a target for thieves.
This is especially important for kids in school. A lot of students are social media friends with other students they don’t know very well. Millions of dollars worth of electronics are stolen from students by students each year. Play it safe by keeping your possessions low-key on social media. Don’t give people a reason to steal from you.
Regardless of the security settings you have, social media simply is not very private. It is a scary fact that celebrities are not the only people who get stalkers. By default, many social media platforms will include your location, which can be as broad as a city or as exact as a store, with all of your posts.
Disable this setting to keep yourself safe. Even if a stalker doesn’t use your information to track you, burglars or other thieves can also use your absence as an opportunity to steal your property.
People have a habit of posting pictures in front of their home on social media. This innocent act reveals your address to strangers. After discovering your house number from the picture, a person can easily find your street address using public records.
You wouldn’t necessarily invite all of your social media contacts over for dinner, so don’t make it easy for them to find out where you live. In addition to the people you intend to share the picture with, your friends could also share your photo, both online and off, with people you never wanted to see it.
Everyone on social media wants the rest of the world to know that they are busy, but there’s a hidden danger to posting pictures of your work desk. Most people see a picture of your desk and keep on scrolling, but there are some people who may study that picture to troll for information.
A lot of people have the bad habit of posting passwords on sticky notes around their desks. There is also a risk of unintentionally revealing confidential information about yourself, your company or your clients because of the papers lying on your desk.
Secrets From Your Past
To protect your privacy, many financial institutions require online users to answer security questions, such as your mother’s maiden name, the name of your first pet, or the name of your elementary school.
The people closest to you may know the answers to those questions anyway, but beware of sharing information that could assist someone trying to answer your security questions. If any of your passwords are based on people, places, or words that make frequent appearances in your social media posts, change your passwords.
Posting your boarding pass online can open you up to a world of pain. Each boarding pass has a unique barcode that helps the airport connect you to your online account. Someone who knows how to scan the barcode, which can be done with images posted on social media, can access your online account with the airline.
With that access, a person could steal your frequent flyer miles, cancel flights, change your seats, or worse, follow you around. Posting about being out of town also alerts potential burglars that no one is at your house.