While You Go about Your Facebook Lives, a Stranger Could be Lurking


Maybe he used the Facebook search tool to seek out single girls or guys age 15-21 who live in towns near his and who are looking for “Networking.” Maybe your photo caught his attention.

If you have your privacy settings saved to “Everyone,” everyone can see your profile information and know as much about your as your close friends and family do.

From your hometown, your stalker might be able to find the address of your school. If you added your work address on your open profile, he would know that too.

He can learn the names of your close friends, can see the pictures you put up and the names you tag.

He can join one of your groups, if he wants to learn more about you. Somebody in the group invites members to a party using the Facebook events tool. You get an invite and accept it. He gets an invite too.

But even if he doesn’t accept, he knows where to find you. Even if he hadn’t been invited, he could have looked up the location when he saw on your profile that you had accepted an invitation. All he has to do is click on the link to the event that Facebook automatically placed in your mini-feed. He now knows where you will be that night.

Without ever leaving his home, a stranger has found you, can look at your pictures, can learn about your life.

He gets assertive and sends you a friend request. You’ve seen his name in one of your groups and on an invite list to the party you plan to attend, so you figure he must be safe. In the friendly spirit of social networking sites, you add him as a friend. Now he has your cell phone number too.

Maybe this guy is harmless, but do you want to take a chance?

How do you protect yourself from falling victim to a predator?

Make your profile private so that only friends can see it. Predators will always choose a readily available target over one that takes work to access. People from your past who look for you will still find your name in a search, but they won’t see your profile until you add them as a friend.

Make your profile limited by using the privacy settings. Use it for people from your past or people you don’t know well.

Don’t list your birth date. At the least, omit the year. Don’t list your school name or the name of where you work. Consider not listing your hometown, ┬ápolitical views or religious affiliations.

Don’t put your phone number on your profile. People you really know you will have other ways to get it.

Keep your personal statement limited. The more you reveal of your likes and dislikes, the more information a stranger will have to create a fantasy obsession or to seek out ways to connect with you in real life.

Never accept an invite to a party or event on Facebook. Decline all online invitations. If you really plan to attend, tell the host in person that you will be there.

Don’t tag your pictures. Strangers won’t know the names and faces of your friends. Never label specifics about where a picture was taken, such as the name of a club or restaurant. Instead label pictures with non-identifying titles like “Birthday Party ’11“, “Vacation” or “Randoms.”

Restrict your picture settings so that only friends can see the pictures you post or pictures that you are tagged in. Do this using the privacy settings.

Be selective in the applications that you add. Stay away from overly personal applications or applications that give away information you have purposely left out of your profile, like hobbies, social groups or favorite things.