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With billions of users worldwide, Facebook is now assuredly embedded in global culture everywhere from the United States to Uzbekistan. People from all over the world share news, videos, and ideas on how to shop, eat, travel, and more.
And the 65+ set is firmly part of all that digital sharing (in fact some seniors are even finding love through online dating)! For most seniors, Facebook represents a valuable tool for maintaining the connections they hold dear. At last count, there were more than 20 million older Americans on Facebook.
Seniors use the platform for everything from sharing photos to connecting with old friends to staying in touch with far-flung family members. Here’s one example: thinking about retiring to Florida? Set up your Facebook account to stay in touch with your friends back home and share pictures and images from your sunny new home.
Seniors on Facebook — What You Should Know
Facebook is one of the world’s largest depositories of personal data. As such, it’s also a magnet for identity thieves, fraudsters, and scammers.
Seniors should know that, although everyone they know seems to be on Facebook, they should exercise caution and play it safe. Luckily, there are ways to protect yourself online when using Facebook. All it takes is some common sense and a few tips.
6 Tips for Seniors on Facebook
Follow these guidelines, and you should be able to protect yourself from most online social media threats.
#1. Be on guard for phishing scams.
Criminals may try to steal your credit card information or other data in order to steal your identity. That’s called phishing. They often do this through links that they’d very much like you to click.
Techniques range from loading free downloads with malware to posting links to articles on unsafe websites that ask for personal information, so be careful what you click.
#2. Don’t fall for celebrity clickbait.
You might see an ad on Facebook offering a glimpse of a celebrity video that you simply can’t resist. Or maybe it’s a sports star or some other household name. Clicking the link takes you to a website that offers access to the video in exchange for… your credit card!
Common sense should tell you to back away and never click on that type of ad again. However, you would be surprised at how tempting these traps really are. There’s a celebrity gossip trap for everyone! Don’t fall for any of them.
#3. Privacy is very important.
Identity theft is an ever-present issue in our technological society. The first way you can protect your identity on Facebook is by never revealing your address. Don't add your address to your profile, don't check in at your address, and never tag your address in a post or image. You can add your hometown or the city you live in, but never your full address.
The second way to protect your identity and control who sees what you post on Facebook is by reviewing the privacy settings on your profile and selecting the settings you are most comfortable with. You will have the option to share your profile with:
- The Public – anyone on or off Facebook can view your profile
- Friends – only your friends on Facebook can view your profile
- Friends Except… – your friends on Facebook can view your profile with the exception of ones you have excluded
- Specific Friends – only friends on Facebook that you have approved can view your profile
- Only Me – only you can see your Facebook profile
Please note that if you “tag” a friend in a post, the default setting is that your friend’s friends will be able to view it.
#4. Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know.
Facebook is a great place to reconnect with high school and college friends, stay involved with family who lives across the country and connect with your community. In order to make sure Facebook is a safe place to post information about your life and interact with your friends and family, you should never accept friend requests from people you do not know. Treat Facebook like you would treat real life. If you don’t know someone who has requested to be your friend, they are most-likely stranger danger and should immediately be deleted.
Here are some exceptions to this rule:
- Married Names – If you receive a request from a woman who looks familiar but has a last name you don’t remember, this may be because she is using her married name on her Facebook account. If this is the case, you can always accept the request and start a dialogue to confirm they are who you believe them to be. If they are NOT the person you thought, you should immediately delete them and possibly block them from viewing your account.
- Babies and Pets for Profile Pictures – Have you received a friend request from a perky golden retriever or a newborn baby? It is unlikely that this pooch or tiny bundle of joy has sent you a friend request. There are a few ways to find out who truly wants to be your friend:
- Check to see if you have any mutual friends. You may notice this person is also friends with five girls you know from high school. If this is the case, ask those mutual friends if they know who the golden retriever is and then make your decision as to whether their friend request is safe to accept.
- Click through a few pictures. After a few clicks, you may recognize a picture of your old co-worker who is now the proud grandparent of the baby in their profile picture.
- Just ask! If all else fails, message them and ask how you know each other.
#5. Never post vacation or travel plans.
Facebook is a great place to share exciting news and keep your friends and family in the know, but be careful how much information you share. If you are planning a vacation or a trip, never post that to Facebook. Although the social media giant is always putting new policies in place to protect your privacy, there is always a possibility that someone outside of your friend group will see your post. Posting your vacation plans on Facebook is an open invitation for intruders and burglars to visit your home when it’s most vulnerable.
Our suggestion is to wait until you return from vacation to post about your trip. You can let your family and friends know about the fabulous time you had and post pictures for them to enjoy.
#6. Facebook Live
This is a fairly new feature that allows users to broadcast a video to their friends in real time. Yes, everything you post with Facebook Live will immediately be published on your newsfeed and available to everyone you are Facebook friends with and possibly a few of their connections.
Facebook Live can be a fun way to share shocking snow totals, silly pet tricks, or capture surprise party reactions – but it can also get you in trouble. Here are a few situations when you should not use Facebook Live:
- Do not use Facebook Live if you are on vacation. Like we said in tip number four, this is a quick way to welcome trouble into your home.
- Do not use Facebook Live if you do not want to share this information with (potentially) the entire world. Before you post ask yourself, would I be comfortable with my children, grandchildren, or people in my community seeing this post?
- Rules were meant to be broken – but not on Facebook Live. As grandparents or pillars of your community, you have earned the right to kick back, relax, have fun, and let a few of the rules slide. This could mean you use your senior status to gain a few perks unavailable to the general public, this could also mean you take it upon yourself to teach your unlicensed grandson to drive (we do NOT recommend this). These may be fun senior perks, but they are not things you should be broadcasting on Facebook Live. No matter how careful you were while teaching your grandson to drive or how minor the perk you received, it will ultimately end in someone getting upset and you getting in trouble. Remember: rules were meant to be broken, just not on Facebook Live.
- Do not use Facebook Live if you are not dressed. This may seem silly, but it’s a common problem. Whether you use Facebook on your phone or tablet, there is most likely a front-facing camera and depending on your personal settings or which camera was used last you could be in danger of giving your Facebook friends a bird’s eye view of your tighty whities or worse.
Bonus Facebook Tip – Facebook Can Help You Choose a Retirement Community
Yes, Facebook really can help you choose a retirement community! If you want to read real reviews, see boots on the ground images of resident events and activities, or read through real resident conversations – Facebook is the place to go. The Acts Retirement Life Communities Facebook page is a wealth of information for current and future residents such as How to Apply for and Start Collecting Social Security or Tips for Downsizing Your Living Space. If you like what you see on Facebook, take a virtual tour of one of the communities from the comfort of your home.
The Bottom Line on Staying Safe on Facebook
In general, a good way to stay safe is to only give out your personal information to websites and companies that you know and trust. In addition, set your Facebook privacy settings to ‘maximum security’ to keep hackers out.
Finally, don’t forget that Facebook is for your enjoyment. Don’t let the threat of hackers, phishers, and scammers ruin the party for you. With these tips in mind, you’re now ready to be social on Facebook—social and safe, that is!