Socialising online

Online forums and social media sites are great for keeping in touch with friends and family, but be careful about what information you put online and who you allow to see it.

Tip: Don’t accept friend requests or invitations from people you don’t know – you could be making yourself and your friends more vulnerable to scammers.

Use social media safely

Unfortunately not everyone is as nice as they first appear online and there are people who use social media to embarrass, harass or attack others, and steal personal information and identities.

Certain types of scams are also more prevalent on social media platforms – such as dating and romance scams and fake online retailers. Learn more about scams online.

Protect yourself when using social media

Following a few rules and learning about how your social media platform handles and displays your information can help reduce risk when socialising online.

  • Take the time to read and understand the social network site’s terms and conditions and privacy policy.
  • Familiarise yourself with the site’s privacy and security settings – make sure you’re only sharing your information with the people you want to share it with.
  • Protect your social media accounts with strong passwords.
  • Don't use social networking sites that do not offer any privacy settings or that allow users to contact each other anonymously.
  • Think before you post. Once information is online is it almost impossible to remove. If unsure, ask yourself – would I be OK if this image or information was on the news or seen by my employer? If not, perhaps think again.
  • Use the same caution with clicking on advertisements and online shopping on social media platforms that you do elsewhere. Just because a post appears in your feed and has been ‘suggested for you’ doesn’t mean the retailer is legitimate. Learn how to shop safely online.
  • Be particularly careful with information that could compromise the security of you and others, including:
    • dates of birth
    • addresses
    • information about your daily routine
    • holiday plans
    • your children's schools
    • photos of you or your family and friends - and always seek permission before posting a picture of someone else. Learn how to protect your privacy and personal information online.

This information can be used by criminals to steal your identity or plan criminal activity – like robbing your home when you are away.

Important: Be especially careful what you say about others online. Posting rude, offensive or derogatory comments about another person or business can have legal consequences.

Also be aware that many companies check job applicant’s online profiles. You might not want the photos and information you share with your friends to be seen by a prospective employer! 

Be wary of strangers – and don’t get scammed!

Remember, people are not always who they say they are online. If you are 'friends' with people you don’t know, be especially careful about the amount of information you reveal - and take care if you choose to meet them in person.

Protect yourself from dating and romance scams

Dating scams are where a criminal pretends to have a romantic interest in a victim in order to steal their money or personal information. These scams often happen on social media including LinkedIn and Skype.

Use the following guide to limit your risk of being scammed in this way.

  • Check the profile of new requests to connect or be friends, especially if you have only met the person online. Look out for:
    • new profiles with limited content
    • hidden friend or network lists or lists full of people of the opposite gender
    • profiles that read like a stereotypical dating profile
    • grammar and spelling errors.
  • Don’t send money to someone you’ve never met in person.
  • Be cautious when sharing personal pictures or videos, especially if you’ve never met them before in person. Scammers are known to blackmail their targets using compromising material.
  • Don’t share personal information with someone you have never met in person.
  • Do an image search of your admirer to see if they really are who they say they are. Use image search services such as Google or TinEye.

For more information on dating and other scams online, visit Scamwatch.

Check the site's privacy policy

Privacy policies govern how your personal information can be used by the site – it is very important that you take the time to read the website's privacy policy before you sign up.

Some sites may share your information, such as email addresses or user preferences, with third party businesses that may send you spam.

Privacy policies change. In many cases by continuing to access or use the services after those changes become effective, you agree to be bound by the revised privacy policy.

Tip: Regularly review privacy policies and check how much information you reveal in your profile.

If you use applications or sign up for games inside the website, remember to read the individual privacy policy. Some online games' privacy policies state that they can use your and your friends' information in whatever way they like if linked to your social media accounts.

What to do if things go wrong

There are steps you can take to limit damage and protect yourself from further harm.

  • If you’ve sent money or your personal banking details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately. They may be able to help by stopping a money transfer or cheque, investigating a fraudulent credit card transaction, or closing your account if the scammer has your details.
  • If you think you have been the victim of identity theft, act quickly to avoid further damage. Contact IDCARE, a free government-funded service who can help. 
  • If you have been a victim of a crime (such as fraud) report it to your local police. We would also encourage you to report the scam to the ACSC's ReportCyber and the ACCC’s Scamwatch.
  • If you have been a victim of cyberbullying or harassment, visit the Office of the eSafety Commissioner for help making a complaint, finding someone to talk to, or getting advice on what to do next.

Learn more

Use the following resources to learn more about protecting yourself when socialising online: