For most of us on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and other social sites we aren't too concerned about safety. Well bullying, pedophiles, stalking, and other crimes are now a concern social networkers should have.  In the past most people have been fairly open on social sites, but there is a stark difference between being open and being stupid.  Here are 5 ways to protect yourself and your identity.

1. Keep Private Info to Yourself

People don't need to know your personal information. Never write down your social security number, address, and phone number out there.  Only give it to people you know personally. Also, be selective about the people you add.  You never know who may turn out to be a hacker, stocker, or someone trying to steal your identity.  Also consider using a user name that isn't your actual name.  And don't tweet where you're going because that makes you easy to follow or even break into your house.

2. Beware of Strangers

Although this might seem a little elementary, there's nothing wrong with a refresher course.  Some people that might seem like friends could actually be spammers that just want to hijack your account.  Or they might just want to get traffic to their links.  If you don't know them, and your friends don't know them, don't add them.

3. Be Aware of Odd Things

If friends on social sites seem to be acting strange, don't accept gifts from them or open their messages.  Someone may have hacked into their system so who you thought was a friend really isn't. So, if you have a friend pushing "mozzarella cheese is the best" but you know they're a vegan.  Then it's probably a sign that you shouldn't click on the URL.  It could be a malicious program that will mess up your computer.

4. Beware of Shortened URLs

Some URLs for web site addresses are really long and as a result by using tools like you can have a link with a shortened URL.  While these may be handy, they can also allow scammers and spammers the ability to hide where you are actually going.  If it's possible make sure to preview the URL before you go onto it.  An easy rule is that if you can't see where the link is going, don't go there.

5.  Understand your Privacy Options

All of these social media tools allow you to adjust your security settings to a certain point.  Make sure that you review and adjust them to the highest privacy setting they allow.  However, don't set the settings so high that the tools don't work properly.  Many of these settings are not the default so make sure that you change them so some random stranger can't find your info through the search engine.  If you don't like or are worried about some of the privacy settings on the site, then don't use it.  Look for another site that meets your privacy protection standards.  Also frequently examine and upgrade your browser privacy settings.

Social sites can be great.  You can reconnect with old friends and at the same time make new friends.  Just be careful about what information you are putting up there, and take into account these 5 tips in order to keep yourself and your identity safe.

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