The whole point of Facebook is to share your life with other people. You probably have more than a few friends who fall into the over-sharing category. But don’t snicker. You may be one, too, and not even know it.
Here are five personal tidbits Facebook asks you to share that you’re much better off keeping to yourself.
1. Your phone number
It’s a really bad idea to add your home or cellphone number to your Facebook page. Prank callers, stalkers, scammers and identity thieves would love to use this information against you.
Not only that, but there’s a Facebook trick that works pretty much most of the time. Anyone can use your phone number to search and find your Facebook page.
One security researcher, Reza Moaiandin, took it a step further and found he didn’t even need to know a specific phone number. He wrote a program to generate every possible number in the U.S., U.K. and Canada, submitted the numbers to Facebook and got back information from millions of profiles that hadpoor privacy settings. If he had wanted to, he could have turned around and sold the information on the black market to hackers who build and sell “fullz,” or packages of identity information.
If you do give your phone number to Facebook, be sure to hide it in your profile.
Go to Facebook and click on your name at the top of the page. When your profile page loads, click the “Update Info” button in the lower-right corner of your cover image. Go to “Contact and Basic Info” in the left column and next to your phone number click the “Edit” link.
Click the “audience selector” icon, which will either be a globe or a silhouette of two people or a lock. If you see the lock, you don’t have to do anything. But if you see the globe or silhouette, change it to “Only me.” Now no one can see your phone number, and it won’t show up in searches.
2. Your home address
Post a picture of your recent vacation or major new purchase and this puts you at risk. Think for a moment of all the terrible things that might happen if some nefarious person knew your home address. Remove it from your Facebook profile.
Follow the directions in the last section to get into the “Contact and Basic Info” section of your profile information. Look for “Neighborhood,” and if there’s an address there, click the “Edit” link next to it and wipe out the information. Then click “Save Changes.”
One other place you might find your address is under events. If you create an event, it will likely have your address, so people know where to go. If that accidentally gets set to Public, then anyone can see it.
Either delete the event right after it happens, or tell people who are coming to message you for the address. Be sure to check back through your history to get rid of any old events or posts that have your address in them. Click here to learn how to use Facebook’s built-in tools to make it easier.
3. Anything work-related
Try not to leave any information on Facebook that reveals where you work. If someone from your workplace tries to search for employees on Facebook, she might find a post or photo she doesn’t like.
Similarly, if a hacker wanted to figure out whom to target if he wanted to break into your workplace’s computers, social media would be his first stop. Of course,hackers are more likely to hit LinkedIn first.
Bonus tip: If you’re worried about coworkers or employers creeping on your Facebook profile, then change these three basic features.
Again, you can use Facebook’s timeline tools to do a scan of your past posts. Remove any information about your current job, especially if it’s of a complaining nature. If you have posts about previous jobs, you might want to remove those as well. A current coworker or supervisor you decide to friend might see them and it could color her opinion of you.
4. Your relationship status
Including your relationship status on your Facebook page just invites awkwardness. The number of “likes” that you might get from people after you change your status from “married” to “it’s complicated” will creep you out.
Bonus tip: Have some pictures you want to keep in the family? Here’s a tip that will teach you how to make sure that some of your friends don’t see all of your photos.
Certain relationship statuses are also a draw for cyberstalkers. At one point, there even was a Facebook app that would notify you if friends you flagged changed their relationship status to “single.”
Don’t forget the scammers out there who specialize in sweetheart scams. They use social media, email and dating sites to create a romantic connection with you and then swindle you out of money. You don’t want them to see that you’re single on Facebook and get ideas. It’s easier just to remove your relationship status entirely.
5. Your payment information
Facebook is free, but it still wants your credit card number. Adding your financial information lets you buy gift cards and other products straight through the website. How convenient!
Of course, one of the best ways to accidentally get your credit card charged for something is to leave your Facebook profile open on your home computer. A small family member or a “joking” friend at your home could use it to spend money on something straight through Facebook. You don’t want that to happen, do you?
Open your Facebook, click the upside-down triangle in the top right corner and choose “Settings.” In the left column select “Payments,” and then on the right go the “Account Settings” tab. You can see if you have any saved payment information and remove it.
This also keeps it out of the hands of any hackers who break into your Facebook profile.