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Tips to avoid the dark side of sharing online

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These days, everyone seems to be sharing online. It's fun, and a great way to keep in touch with friends and family, not to mention meeting new people. But, uploading your hot new summer photo or wild weekend party pictures isn't always a good idea, not to mention publishing information about where you live, work and what your vacation schedule is! Sure, sharing online can lead to some occasional embarrassment, but can any real harm come from it? You bet it can.

If you post your address, date of birth, or place of employment online, it's possible a criminal could use that information to steal your identity, or commit other crimes. Have you ever shared your vacation plans with your 3,000 "friends" on Facebook? The more you share, the greater your risk.

As the espionage case against Edward Snowden and Adobe hacking case show, no information anywhere on the internet is 100% secure. Even the U.S. government has problems securing their most private and sensitive data. The only sure way to know your information won't eventually end up in the wrong hands, is to not share in the first place. Know the risk, and post wisely.

Here are some tips on keeping a safer digital life:

  1. Check your privacy settings. While increasing your privacy settings on websites is no guarantee you'll be kept out of harm's way, it's an available option you should take advantage of. Most social networks offer an array of privacy settings. Check them out, and use them.
  2. Remember that no site is 100% safe. Sure, some social networks are safer than others, and if everyone else is doing it, it must be ok, right? Not necessarily. Even Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg got hacked, exposing the fact that anyone's data can be taken.
  3. Stop sharing where you are. What is the point of telling everyone where you are, all the time? Criminals love to know when you're home and when you're not. Keep your whereabouts offline, and limited to your friends and family, and those who need to know.
  4. Keep your kids safe. Your children are adorable, but donĀ“t share too much about them online. Once information is published on the internet, it's very hard to remove. Give your child a chance to protect his privacy, you may be doing him a big favor down the road.
  5. Don't trust the profile. "Remember that much of the information on the web is false, and profiles are often exaggerated or completely bogus," says Tom Burnett of Wymoo International investigations. So, the next time you meet Mr. or Ms. Perfect on a social or match-making website, consider a background check investigation to verify the person is who he or she claims to be. Do your due diligence prior to sharing your life story with your partner.

Lastly, don't forget about the real world that there is to explore! From time to time, close the computer, turn off the phone, and go outside, shoot some basketball, go for a bike ride, or walk on the beach. Join a tennis club or church group, and try sharing the Old-Fashioned way, face to face.

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