You have a new Facebook friend request. Someone wants to connect with you on LinkedIn. You have a new follower on Twitter. These notifications typically signify a positive confirmation that your social network is growing. However, in some cases, they also can spell disaster.

Social media networks are great for connecting with fellow admins, other professionals, friends, and family across the country and around the world. However, they also can expose your personal and professional information to cyber criminals — leaving you vulnerable to a cyber-attack — if you’re careless or don’t know what to watch out for.

Phishing attacks — online attempts to trick people into revealing sensitive personal information — used to be easy to spot. Today, they’re not quite as obvious as a Nigerian prince asking for your Social Security number in exchange for a free vacation. Modern cyber criminals have an arsenal of phishing techniques to target and steal valuable data. From copying legitimate websites and tricking search engines into promoting them over the original, to sending fake emails that appear to come from trusted friends or organizations, phishing is a serious threat to everyone.

In a typical social media attack, scammers send emails that look official to members of a social network. These emails trick users into providing login information, giving criminals full access to their accounts. Once inside, hackers can also target a user’s friends, connections, and networks.

So, how do you protect yourself from these cyber thieves without going off social media? Fortunately, staying safe is not nearly as complicated as some of the cyber scams out there. Here are some simple and effective tips for avoiding social media hacks.

  1. Never trust hyperlinks in emails, even if they appear to come from a trusted source, such as LinkedIn.
  2. Be wary of attachments in social media message, particularly if you weren’t expecting one, and never open attachments from an unknown source.
  3. When logging into a social media site, verify the URL. If it looks unusual (e.g. Fasebook.com instead of Facebook.com), don’t log in. Also, if the beginning of a URL reads “http” instead of “https” don’t enter your login information.
  4. If you receive an email or link on a social media page that seems questionable, don’t click on it! Go to the actual site and see if the same communication is there. For instance, if you get an email with a suspicious LinkedIn connection request, go to LinkedIn.com, log into your account, and check to see whether the same request is there. If it’s not, then don’t click the link in the email – it’s likely malicious.
  5. Keep the antivirus software on your computers and mobile devices up to date at all times.

Social media hacks can be scary, but there’s no reason to close down your accounts to keep your information safe. By taking the proper precautions, staying up to date on the latest scams, and being wary of any social communications that look suspicious, you can avoid the cyber crooks out there, including the Nigerian prince.

© 2017 Julie Perrine International, LLC

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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at www.AllThingsAdmin.com.