How to stay safe on Facebook
For many people, it’s hard to imagine a world without Facebook. It’s the most popular social media network with more than 2 BILLION users worldwide. That’s around a quarter of the world’s population. It’s also the most popular online social network used by older people, and it’s easy to see why.
Facebook can be a great way to stay connected to family, friends and other people in the community. But first, to ensure your experience on Facebook is a positive one, there are a few safety tips to follow.
In this article:
- What are the benefits of Facebook?
- What to look out for on Facebook
- Tips for staying safe on Facebook
What are the benefits of Facebook?
There are many reasons why so many people are drawn to Facebook. You can use it to:
- Stay in touch with family and friends – while nothing can replace face-to-face interactions, Facebook can help you stay connected to the people you care about, especially when they live far from you.
- Reconnect with old friends you have lost touch with — you can find old friends from school or sporting teams that you have not seen in years.
- Join groups with shared interests — you can find and join groups who share similar interests to you.
- Share photos and video — it’s easy to keep up with your children and grandchildren’s lives, and you can share your own pictures with them too.
What to look out for on Facebook
Facebook offers a lot of benefits, however there are some things you need to watch out for, including:
- Romance scams — these are not just aimed at people looking for love. Scammers are targeting people through Facebook groups or while playing online games such as Words with Friends. The scammer’s goal is to earn your trust before they ask you for money. Beware of people who ask you a lot of questions, confess their feelings for you very early on or tell you they’re a lonely widow or widower. Sometimes they may tell you they usually live locally but are currently living or working overseas.
- Identity theft and scams— you can share a lot of personal information on Facebook without even realising. This puts you at risk of identity theft and online scams. Because Facebook encourages you to share personal information, it can be a treasure trove for identity thieves.
- Fake ‘friends’— scammers can pretend to be someone else online, so be careful who you accept as a friend on Facebook. When you become 'friends' with somebody you don't know in real life, you are revealing your personal details, pictures and contacts to potential scammers.
- Facebook advertising — Facebook uses your personal information in your profile (like your date of birth, location, gender) and the things you ‘share’ and ‘like’, to show you ads and news it thinks you might be interested in. The more information you provide, the more targeted these suggestions become.
- Fake news– it’s not a new concept, however it’s much easier to spread via Facebook. Be aware that fake news does exist, so question the source and don’t believe everything you see or read. Read more about how to spot fake news online.
Tips for staying safe on Facebook
- Adjust your privacy settings. You can take control of your privacy via the Settings menu, where you see the down arrow in the top right-hand corner of your Facebook page. The Privacy & Settings option lets you control things like who can see what you post on Facebook and who can contact you. It also enables you to manage the data Facebook can share with other websites (for you to receive targeted ads). Find out more about your privacy settings on Facebook.
- Think carefully about what you share online. Try to avoid sharing personal information on Facebook that you wouldn’t give out to a stranger on the street, like your phone number, home address and date of birth. Also try to avoid sharing personal information about your friends and family, including their birth dates and names of children. Check whether it’s ok with your friends or family before mentioning them in a post on Facebook.
- Use a strong password. Protect your Facebook account with a strong password so it makes it harder for people to guess your password and access your Facebook account. For tips on how to create and remember strong passwords, see our course on safe passwords.
- Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know in real life. Don’t feel obliged to accept every friend request you receive. When you get a friend request, ask yourself, ‘do I know this person?’, and if you don’t, are you sure it’s not a fake account? Also check to see whether you’re already friends with this person. If you are, the new ‘friend’ may be a fake Facebook account that’s been set up in your friend’s name by a scammer.
- Use the block, unfriend or unfollow functions. If you don’t like how someone is behaving on Facebook, you can ‘unfriend’ them, which means you can remove them from your friends list. They will not get a message to let them know that you have done this. You can also ‘unfollow’ a page, person or group that you are following, so you don’t see what they put on Facebook. If someone is contacting you and you don’t want them to, you can ‘block’ them - this stops them from being able to communicate with you. Find out how to unfriend and block someone on Facebook.
- Avoid using Facebook to log in to other websites. Ever noticed that some websites give you the option to use your Facebook login details to sign in or create a new account on their site? Yes, it saves you the trouble of creating a new account and having to remember another password but it comes at a price. When you use your Facebook login details (the email address and password you use to access your Facebook account) to sign in to another website, Facebook shares your data with them too. The good news is you can see and manage what information a third party has access to in the Apps and Websites option in your Facebook Settings.
- Review your privacy settings regularly. Facebook routinely adds new features that can sometimes change your privacy settings and affect the information you share. So it’s a good idea to check your privacy settings on a regular basis, say every month, to make sure your account stays private.
- Don’t send money to people you don’t know. As a general rule, if someone you meet on Facebook asks you for money, don’t send it. Being asked for money is one of the biggest red flags that the person you have friended online is a scammer.
For more information
The Facebook Help Centre is a great place to start for tips on things like:
The eSafety Commissioner’s eSafety guide also has more information on Facebook and how you can report online abuse and ask for content to be removed.