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15 Small-Business Social Network Nightmares

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You may think you've guarded your company, but are your social media outlets unprotected? Look at these 15 potential weaknesses in your defense.

Can you think of five social network nightmares you hope never happen to your business? How about 10?

Well, I can top that, because there are at least 15 social network mishaps that can haunt a business owner. Here's a closer look at 15 types of trouble you can encounter on Facebook, Twitter and other popular social media platforms. Once you're aware of all these potential dangers, you should take the necessary steps to prevent them from damaging your company.

1. Posting about illegal or questionable activities. Can you think of an illegal activity your employees might engage in that could get your company into trouble if they posted it on Facebook? How about underage drinking? If you employ teens under the age of 18 and any of them posted a photo of themselves drinking at your place of business, you could be in trouble with the law. And even if all your employees are adults, they can still post something unflattering (though not illegal) that could smear your reputation.

2. Account hijacking. Remember when the Dow dropped 150 points last April after someone hacked the Associated Press' Twitter account and sent out a tweet that fraudulently claimed the White House had been attacked and President Obama had been injured? Don't shrug it off—account hijacking can happen closer to home. Fraudsters may send your employees Twitter messages on their workplace computers that are designed to fake the recipients into thinking they’re receiving authentic messages when, in fact, the fraudster’s motive is to get money or sensitive data.

3. Bullying on Facebook. Bullying doesn't just happen among kids; workplace bullying also exists, and what better place than on social media? Sometimes employees who manage a company's social media get frustrated with the public’s comments and fight back with below-the-belt comments.

4. Online reputation management. Make sure you and your employees never post anything on Facebook that you wouldn't show your grandmother or wouldn’t want going viral and damaging your brand.

5. Social media identity theft. Ever considered the possibility that someone could take your business’s name and use it for nefarious purposes? Someone could crack your password, take over an account and cause a trail of destruction. Or they could create a new account using your business's name and post all sorts of alarming, but false, things about your company. Make sure your business name is protected by constantly navigating the Web, seeking out spoofed sites and your likeness or logo.

6. Financial identity theft. Does your company’s Facebook page include personal information about employees, such as the names of their pets or children? What about their birthdays? Hackers can take this information and use it to crack passwords to online business accounts. Be sure to use privacy settings, and make sure your company's Facebook page isn’t full of personal details.

7. Burglaries. Never post information about vacation or travel dates on your social pages. Do you want the whole world (which includes crafty burglars) to know when you’ll be away?

8. Geo-stalking. Don’t use location-based GPS technology unless you absolutely need to (for instance, if you and your employees are on a “team building” trek in the wilderness and get lost). While search-and-rescue teams need to find you, stalkers who want your identity do not.

9. Corporate spying. Yes, it’s possible: A crook could pose as one of your employees, set up a Facebook group and invite all your employees to join. This enables the bad guy to gather sensitive data from your business and use it against you.

10. Harassment. Someone who’s disgruntled could stalk your brand and make false accusations. They could set up blogs and social sites, post videos and continually tweet their angry thoughts.

11. Government spying. It’s 10 p.m.: Do you know who it is you just friended on your Facebook page? The Associated Press says, “U.S. law enforcement agents are following the rest of the Internet world into popular social networking services, going undercover with false online profiles to communicate with suspects. Just don’t be a 'suspect.'”

12. Sex offenders. Sex offenders have been known to pose as someone other than themselves—younger, a different sex, etc.—so they can gain the trust of their victims. You might connect with them online as a business only to discover down the road that they're a predator.

13. Scams. A bad guy could set up a phony Facebook page and then create phony contests to slurp sensitive customer data such as names, addresses, emails, phones, account numbers and credit card numbers.

14. Legal liabilities. Privacy settings on Facebook can hide posts, but that doesn’t matter to a judge in New York who recently ruled that items posted on Facebook (as well as other social networking sites) can be used as evidence in court—even if the posts were concealed by the privacy settings.

15. Zero privacy. And speaking of privacy, don't assume you actually have any, because thieves have already figured out how to yank data from the innards of Facebook that’s supposedly just for you and your closest colleagues to see. So be very careful what you put up on Facebook, privacy settings or not.

Robert Siciliano is the author of four books, including The 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. He is also a corporate media consultant and speaker on personal security and identity theft. Find out more atwww.RobertSiciliano.com.

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