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Since the emergence of MySpace in 2003, social networking sites have become some of the Web's hottest hangouts. In just a few short years, millions of people worldwide have joined one online network or another. Though these sites vary in design and features, they all allow you to connect and communicate through a member profile. You can express yourself by personalizing and updating your profile, joining groups, uploading pictures and, of course, connecting with other people on the network.
49% of social network users use the networks to make new friends.2
31% of teens who use social networks have "friends" on their profile whom they have never met.3
For all their advantages, these sites also come with risks. Unwary social networkers who post their last name, birth date, email or other sensitive information leave themselves open to identity theft or phishing attacks. Even if you're careful to leave personally identifying information off your profile, you can still open yourself up to fraud by posting your school, place of work, personal interests or friends lists--all information that con artists can use to win your trust.
By thinking before you post, you can enjoy these online communities without making yourself a target for online scammers looking to make a quick buck.
- National Cyber Security Alliance Social Networking Study, 2006 (Stay Safe Online).
- Teens, Privacy and Online Social Networks. Pew Internet & American Life Project, April 18, 2007.
- Ibid. 44.