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Our Birthday Celebration Continues at the NY Stock Exchange

Monday, July 14th, 2014

In honor of Geek Squad’s 20th birthday, Commissioner Chris Askew, a number of Agents from across the country and a couple of Best Buy Blueshirts rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Monday, July 14.


The Agents and Blueshirts were invited to join Chris at the NYSE in recognition of their outstanding customer service and commitment to maintain the highest standards of Geek Squad’s brand and culture. Chief Inspector Michael Sherwood and Deputy Commissioner Ronnie Hill also made the trip out to Wall Street with the crew to ring in the new trading day. Chris and team had a great time and were honored to oversee the beginning of a new week at the most important financial center in the free world.

Front row, left to right: Double Agent Lindsey Schnase from Bismarck, ND, Agent Rebecca Waller from Minneapolis, MN,Blue Shirt Milana Shakhnazaryan from New York City, Chris Askew, Precinct Agent Cody Halvorson from Reno, NV, Blue Shirt Regina Barresi from New York City, Covert Agent Cheryl Dorgan from Long Island, NY. Back row: Agent Shawn Hinton from Chino, CA, Ronnie Hill, New York Stock Exchange official, Agent Kaleb Pfaff from Olathe, KS, Michael Sherwood, Agent Cody Parker from Minneapolis, MN.

Check out the video of Monday’s Geek Squad ringing the opening bell on the NYSE YouTube channel.

Agent Tanya B. has been a woman of technology since 2009. When she steps away from her role maintaining the website, Tanya is either at the gym, walking her dog, or gaming with the other Agent B. Having moved to corporate from Florida last spring, she’s trying really hard to not complain about the cold too much.

No, Geek Squad Did Not Analyze the Christmas Tree App (Hoax alert)

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

About three years ago, a message began circulating in cyberspace saying that Geek Squad had discovered a Facebook app called “the Christmas Tree App” and we thought it was “one of the worst viruses ever.” This was a hoax.

At that time Geek Squad reached out through our social media presence and various hoax debunking sites to say that we had never investigated any Christmas-tree-related Facebook apps. Because we never looked into it, we couldn’t have determined the extent to which it could be dangerous to Facebook users.

The problem with internet hoaxes like these are that they flare back up again on occasion. That particular hoax email made the rounds again in 2011, and we reached out again through social media and this blog at that time. While we didn’t hear much about this email hoax last year, it seems to be making a comeback, so we thought it would be a good time to reach out  on this topic again.

Let’s make this clear: Geek Squad has never formally investigated any Facebook app that involved Chrismas trees, nor have we identified it as the source of any infections in any tech cases we have solved. This does not automatically mean that the “Christmas Tree App”, if you find one on Facebook, is ok to use.

As a general rule, if it’s not 100% necessary for you to use an application and you can’t verify that the developer is trustworthy, you will want to do some research before using it. There are a number of approaches users can take to keep from installing nefarious apps on Facebook. Start by looking through the Facebook Security page for tips on keeping your profile information secure.

Any Facebook application that you install or use on your profile has access to your personal information and friends list, so make sure you’re only giving applications and people you trust access to your personal info.

As always, if you are dealing with any undesired computer symptoms, seek help from a computer professional as soon as possible. If you notice any signs of your Facebook account being compromised or sending out messages you didn’t intend to send, it could be a signal that your computer may be infected, and you should seek professional assistance.

Agent Derek has been removing techno-stress from the lives of his Geek Squad clients since 2005. When not providing remote help as an Online Support Agent, he likes to take to the road on a vintage motorcycle for adventures through Ohio country highways.

Urban Legends and Facebook Graphic Search: Telling Truth from Fiction

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

One of my favorite things about Facebook is that it helps me keep up with my family & friends. I’ve traveled a lot in my life, and lived in other states and overseas — so Facebook allows us to share a little bit in each other’s lives. Whether sharing pictures of kids, trips & pets, or sharing life experiences as they happen, it generally let’s each of us know what’s going on, and helps keep us close.

Mark Twain once said  “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Never has this been easier than online — especially when it comes to fears of others infringing on their privacy. I was taking a spin through my Facebook feed not long ago and ran across this post from a few of my friends:

Hello to all of you who are on my list of contacts of Facebook. I would like to ask a favor of you…. You may not know that Facebook has changed its privacy configuration once again. Thanks to the new “Graphic app”, any person on FB anywhere in the world can see our photos, our “likes” and our “comments”. During the next two weeks, I am going to keep this message posted and I ask you to do the following and comment “DONE”. Those of my friends who do not maintain my information in private will be eliminated from my list of friends, because I want the information I share with you, my friends, to remain among my friends and not be available to the whole world. I want to be able to publish photos of my friends and family without strangers being able to see them, which is what happens now when you choose “like” or “comment”. Unfortunately we cannot change this configuration because FB has made it like this.

  1. So, please, place your cursor over my photo that appears in this box (without clicking) and a window will open.
  2. Now move the cursor to the word “Friends”, again without clicking and then on “Settings”.
  3. Un-check “Life Events” and “Comments and Like”. That way my activity with my family and friends will no longer be made public.
  4. Now, copy and paste this text on your own wall (do not “share” it!). Once I see it published on your page, I will un-check the same.

Thanks for helping me out with this!!

Now, the kneejerk reaction to something like that is fear — followed by reposting of the same message, and an almost automatic following of whatever advice is given in the post… which got me thinking. This seems somewhat conspiracy theorist territory to me — so I needed to check it out.

How did I do that? By simply copying a segment of the text and Googling it — along with the word “Scam”. And just like that — BINGO! We have a confirmation: it’s simply yet another online urban legend.

New privacy concerns about Facebook seem to surface every time they change their platform in any way. This message contains some inaccuracies and construes the recent changes FB made to their search capability as a feature allowing strangers to see things we just as soon they didn’t. I discovered the new Graphic Search works the same as all other Facebook functionality – it is controlled by the sharing settings you set in the Privacy Settings and Tools section of the site.

First thing I discovered is that there is no “Graphic app.” I assume the message is referring to Facebook’s new Graphic Search capability because that is the only recent upgrade of the platform to use the term “Graphic.” The fact is Graphic Search just makes it easier for users to find content on Facebook using regular language-based search and some added filters. As a more effective search engine, it makes it easier for users to find content that they would have had to spend a little more time digging around for in the past. But it is not searching content that wasn’t available to users already.

More good information about Graphic Search is available from Facebook here.

If you, like my friends, are concerned with who can see content from or about you on Facebook, then go to the Privacy Shortcuts menu in the toolbar in the upper-right-hand-corner of your FB feed page (the padlock image) and adjust your settings accordingly. (check out this article about managing your privacy on Facebook on Graham Cluley’s security blog. )

How can you avoid being taken in by scammers like this in the future? Well, if something sounds too good to be true (or too horrible, for that matter), head over to and look it up there (or type “Snopes” and whatever the topic is in your search bar). Chances are, you’ll find out that it wasn’t actually true — and you can avoid the embarrassment that often follows.

Agent Ron G. has been battling the forces of unruly technology run amok since 2001, prior to Geek Squad’s acquisition of Best Buy. When not busy creating video & technical training content for Geek Squad Agents in the field, Agent Ron enjoys home brewing, international travel, sketch writing, and learning how to cook new cuisines.

Social Privacy :
Google+ v. Facebook

Monday, July 8th, 2013


With the explosion of social media outlets over the last decade, we seem to be spending more and more of our lives online. Social platforms make it easy and fun to stay connected with friends and family, share the latest cute picture of your cats playing with a ball of twine or check in from your new favorite restaurant. Mobile technology means that you don’t ever have to disconnect from your online network. If you’ve spent any time with teenagers lately, you realize some of them never do.

Even as we become more free with information about our lives, many of us are very aware that we have to be careful who is looking at it. According to a recent survey by the Pew Center Internet and American Life Project, young people are becoming more concerned with protecting access to their online identities as they become more open in their online communities. According to Pew, this apparent contradiction in behavior has been developing in social media user groups for a number of years and has become the new normal in the social sphere. While users are surprisingly free with the type of information they share, they are becoming more hands-on and sophisticated in how they control who can see that information.

“Social media” and “privacy” seem to be mutually exclusive terms. After all, tweeting a pic of you and your colleagues throwing yourselves into Karaoke after work or posting a rant about those idiots that run your neighborhood council on your Facebook wall are not exactly “private” activities. You are posting this stuff on the Web, after all.

Companies that maintain social media platforms are aware of the increasing sophistication of their users and are constantly tweaking their privacy approaches to balance their advertisers’ appetite for information with users’ desire for privacy. Our friends at Webroot did a handy comparison between the privacy practices of Google+ and Facebook, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of each platform’s approach to allowing their users control what happens with their personal information.

Social Network Privacy: Google+ or Facebook for a Safer Experience? from Webroot blog

If nothing else, we hope this article will prompt you to dig into the privacy settings of your favorite social media sites. You have more control over this stuff than you think. Good luck.

Agent Ron G. has been battling the forces of unruly technology run amok since 2001, prior to Geek Squad’s acquisition of Best Buy. When not busy creating video & technical training content for Geek Squad Agents in the field, Agent Ron enjoys home brewing, international travel, sketch writing, and learning how to cook new cuisines.

Facebook Privacy Disclaimers: Do They Do Anything?

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Have your Facebook friends started posting “privacy disclaimers” in their posts? If you’re seeing these in your Facebook timeline, it’s likely a reaction to recent news items about Facebook and supposed privacy changes. The question is: do these disclaimers actually mean anything?

The legal privacy “disclaimers” many Facebook users are copying to use in their own posts are not new. They are actually duplicates of items sent out years ago in response to similar privacy concerns. Unfortunately (just like the previous round of posts) these new disclaimers won’t provide any “legal protection” beyond those already in the Facebook terms and conditions. (Check out this link for Facebook’s response to this latest round of privacy concerns.)

Some sites have started referring to these added disclaimers as “legal talismans”, added in the belief that the quoted legal code will protect the owner from harm. While the text often sounds official (and generally references legal code), they don’t actually supersede your agreements — and they aren’t very good legal documents anyway. (They often include mistakes, referring to the “Berner Convention” when they likely mean the “Berne Convention” and the like.)

The truth is this: adding disclaimers to your posts does not negate or retroactively change any of the terms and conditions you agreed to when you signed up and began using Facebook. When you sign up for Facebook, you accepted the Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and Privacy terms.

A good method to check the legitimacy of a claim is to Bing, Google or use some other internet search tool to see what others are saying about it. ( is also a great clearinghouse for such things.)

As always, it is a good idea to investigate the terms and conditions of an agreement, especially for an online social network that will have access to your posted information. In the case of Facebook, you can view their complete list of terms and policies here.

Agent Derek has been removing techno-stress from the lives of his Geek Squad clients since 2005. When not providing remote help as an Online Support Agent, he likes to take to the road on a vintage motorcycle for adventures through Ohio country highways.

Social Media 101: A Geek Squad Guide to the Terminology

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Technical advances give us new ways to connected with loved ones, especially those far away from us. New to social media? Here’s a breakdown of a few social media networks to help you  share what’s new with family and friends, get up to date on the latest celebrity news, and connect with others around ideas and current events.


Instagram has become the leading online tool for editing and sharing images. Its interface is easy to use and connections with other social networks make it the best tool to show the grandkids what you are up to these days.


It allows you to easily share photos from your smartphone (or other digital devices) on most of the popular social networks. It allows users to edit, dress-up and improve their pictures. Instagram also maintains its own social network to allow power-users to share their work with other interested photo designers. 

Tips and Tricks:

Photos from Instagram don’t have to stay online. Users can now easily turn their filtered photos into actual photos on canvas using CanvasPop or into desk calendars with the Calendargram app.



Google+ is a social networking site with multiple features, and is ideal for those who want to share content-rich information. It allows you to easily share personal documents, photos and links to other content, and gives live text (and video) chat options for anyone who has a Google account.


Google+ has a wide variety of features, including Google Hangouts (an online group chat tool)  and the “+1 button” (which allows users to personally endorse an article or an interesting item from the Web). Google+ also allows you to categorize your contacts into a variety of groups called ‘circles.’ These ‘circles’ give you an additional level of control over who sees what you post on the network. 

Tips and Tricks:

Google Docs has recently been integrated into Hangouts, the video chat feature of Google+. Users can pull up their documents while using the video chat feature and share their screen to for easy face-to-face tele-conference and presentation capabilities.



Pinterest is a virtual pin board where users can “pin” (collect) and store online images in collections based on their interests. Pinterest collections are great ways to collect and share photos of birthday parties, sunsets, famous quotations and favorite family recipes.


If you’re constantly surfing the web, it can be difficult to remember exactly where you saw that cute kitty picture your daughter/granddaughter/niece will absolutely love. Pinterest is easily added to your internet browser to make it easier to images from the web.

Tips and Tricks:

Stumped for gift ideas for the upcoming holiday season? Check out Pinterest’s gift section — it has segmented categories with different price ranges, and  clicking on the image will take you to the product information.



Twitter is an online, micro-blogging social network that allows users to share and read posts. Users can follow and get tweets from friends, celebrities, news outlets, companies and other organizations. The challenge and artistry of this platform is this: each post (called a “tweet”) can only be 140 characters or less. (That’s it.) 


Twitter is a great way to quickly receive updates and breaking news and updates from your friends, family, favorite sports team or news outlet. You can create different lists to direct your tweets into different collections based on their author.

Tips and Tricks:

To help you create lists, Twitter has a “suggestions” feature that suggests ways to categorize your tweets. Note: watch what you tweet. One of your followers can easily share (“re-tweet”) your tweets with others.



Most people are familiar with Facebook, the largest and most widely-used social media network in the world.. You can interact with other Facebook users by “friending” them and “liking” or commenting on their posts, photos, and other content they share on their wall.  Companies, sports teams, politicians, celebrities and social movements all use Facebook to spread the word about their activities.


To best use Facebook, remember to keep in mind what you want to share. Check your privacy settings and make sure your public information is the kind of thing you want public. If you need help, Geek Squad Agents are available 24/7 online at to help you figure out the settings.

Tips and Tricks:

Did you know you can now use Facebook to connect you and your friends using text messages? If your Wi-Fi or Internet connectivity is off, you can still contact your friends and family via Facebook. You can turn on text messaging so your contacts can use Facebook Messages to send you texts. Once you have activated text messaging through your Facebook account, you can send a text to 32665 (FBOOK) and send a text to be posted on your friend’s Facebook wall.



LinkedIn is a social networking tool focused on professional networking and building business relationships. It can be used for professional networking needs, and has informational tabs that compile your industry’s top news for the day for quick reference.


LinkedIn can be used to connect professionally and as a supplement to the traditional resume and business card. LinkedIn allows you to expand and personalize your professional experiences, giving you a place to put all those things you leave off the hard copy of your resume. You even have the option of adding a video onto your LinkedIn profile to give you an extra boost in impressions.

Tips and Tricks:

Check out LinkedIn fequently to see what your contacts and colleagues are up to. It’s a great way to stay connected professionally, and congratulate themon their career accomplishments while keeping those professional doors open.


Best Practices for Social Media

Watch who you “Friend” and “Follow.”

On many social media sites, people can request to follow or friend you. If you’re not comfortable with strangers having access to your social media information, be careful who you allow into your social network. In most cases, they will have access to everything you post to the network.

Privatize your profile.

There are a lot of different ways to handle the privacy settings offered by social media sites. On Facebook and many other social media sites, marking your page as private will prevent members of the general public from seeing anything but the most general information about you.

Social media websites generally undergo changes a few times every year, and most of those facelifts affect privacy settings in some way. If you notice changes on social-networking site homepages, it’s a good idea to revisit your privacy settings, and perform a quick internet search to learn more. We keep up on this kind of thing so we will be able to help you with any questions you may have.


General Rules for Social Media Networks:

Here’s a few general guidelines that everyone should know about social networking websites:

  • Think Twice Before Posting!  Any content you post on the internet will be there forever for anyone to read, store and republish. Remember that this information is stored somewhere (likely in multiple places), and that a favorite tool by most employers now is to see what you’ve posted before hiring you.
  • Avoid sharing personal information. License plate numbers, house numbers or other addresses as well as specific names of schools, workplaces or towns should be not shared on the internet. Information like that can be used by identity thieves.
  • Always take a second look. Just because the screen says your friend John has sent you information doesn’t mean John is actually the person who did. Scams often run rampant on social media sites, so beware of any unusual messages. For example, hackers disguise messages to your contacts claiming to need money after being robbed or having lost money in a foreign country.
  • Trust your gut. If it doesn’t “seem right”, it probably isn’t. Things free or too good to be true are just that. Social networking sites have been a breeding ground for fake antivirus software ads, so avoid any type of free antivirus offers.

If the social media universe is still too much for you, let Geek Squad help.

Agent Wiebusch carries badge number #3881 and has thwarted rogue technology issues since 2004, helping clients in store, in their home or business, and now online. When away from computers, he enjoys playing sports, playing videogames, and tinkering with motorcycles, classic cars, and anything else fast.

Back to School: Connecting with Your College Kids via Technology (A Primer)

Monday, July 30th, 2012
For many parents, sending their kids off to college can be bittersweet. Fortunately, technology can help offset the feelings of separation by keeping family and friends in touch despite the distance.



Laptops are often at the top of a student’s shopping list for college.  While mostly used for homework, papers and research, they’re also great for teleconferencing on the cheap.

Most laptops include built-in webcams which are great for audio/videoconferencing. Combined with programs like Skype (, Google Talk ( or FaceTime (, those Sunday night calls can be more meaningful, allowing everyone to see each other while they are talking.

 Smartphone, Smart Choice 

Sometimes, regular phone calls are still the best option. Which is why a smartphone is a good choice. Many family plans allow free long distance so children and parents can reach out and talk as often as needed. Plus, many modern smartphones have front-facing cameras to enable you to use Skype, FaceTime or similar video chat apps while on the go – whether it be for a pre-exam pep talk, or at a pep rally before the big game.

 Social Networking Made Simple

With more parents (and grandparents) joining social networks, students can keep everyone up to date with Facebook ( or Google+ ( College life can be hectic at times, so the ability to upload stories about college classes, photos of dorm life, or recorded videos make it easy for loved ones to keep up on their students’ busy lives.

Of course, while getting their children set up with the technology to keep in touch, parents will also want to make sure their own home tech is up to the task.  Geek Squad Agents can help to ensure the home network is setup, safe and secure, and the home computer is free of malware and ready to go for reaching out to their loved ones. Even if it’s only so their kids can ask for more “laundry” money.

Agents are available 24 hours a day to help with your technology at 1-800 GEEK SQUAD (800-433-5778), online at, or in a Geek Squad Precinct located at your local Best Buy.

Agent Derek has been removing techno-stress from the lives of his Geek Squad clients since 2005.  When not providing remote help as an Online Support Agent, he likes to take to the road on a vintage motorcycle for adventures through Ohio country highways.

Taking the Appropriate Steps to Protect Your Privacy

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Social Media, it seems, is the new frontier for keeping in touch with your friends and family. It’s become such a common place in our daily lives that sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are typically the first place web go to share the latest news, upload photos from their mobile devices, and even vent about their day. The problem is that most of us rarely giving any thought to who can read, share and otherwise interact with our posts.


ZoneAlarm, with the help of a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, has compiled some interesting data around how users manage who is viewing their content. The infographic also contains 5 basic tips for ensuring that you are keeping in control of who can see your posts.



As always, for help ensuring your personal information, your computer, and your mobile devices are secure, Geek Squad Agents are standing by to assist. Find us Online or on the Phone at 1-800-GEEK-SQUAD 24/7/366. Or, find us standing by at a Geek Squad Precinct near you.

-Agent Patrick B.-
Geek Squad HQ 

Tech Resolution: Keeping All Your Other Resolutions In Check

Monday, January 16th, 2012

It is a new year with new opportunities. Many of us choose to set new goals. Sometimes we want to get back on track with our existing goals.



Why not take full advantage of your tablet to make planning and meeting those goals easy? Today we’ll take a few common New Year Resolutions that we all share, and look at how your tablet can help with each.


Keeping organized

Syncing your tablet with the cloud has never been easier. If you have an Android device you can let your Gmail account keep track of your contacts, calendar, notes, tasks, pictures, music, messages and more, keeping everything lined up, no matter how many devices you have. Whether you are on your tablet or on your computer, everything will stay in sync as long as you’re connected to the Internet. With an iPad, iCloud will do many of the same things for you. On Windows tablets you can use Google or SkyDrive. You can even export from one service and import it into another if migrating everything to one central account makes your digital life easier to manage.


Keeping fit

There are apps available to help you with pushups, sit-ups, yoga or walking. Nike, and coming soon from Jawbone, there’s pedometer-like gear that will work with apps to give you more accurate readings of your accomplishments. If making fitness more social and fun helps keep you motivated then you can go to Fitocracy from your tablet web browser to share your experience with others while keeping track of your progress.


Keeping in touch

Keeping in touch with friends and loved ones can be a challenge with our busy schedules. Fortunately, social sites like Facebook, twitter and foursquare make it easier to share in the lives of the people that you care about. If logging in to separate web pages to check in with your social network is a bit overwhelming to you, you may want to consider consolidating them into one app on your tablet. Both Tweetdeck and Hootsuite do a great job of streamlining this experience in a way that may just make you want to use those services even more.



So no matter what you resolve to change in your life this year, remember your tablet can help you out, and help you stick to it! Also, keep in mind that we are always here to help. If it all seems a bit overwhelming, Geek Squad offers a Tablet Setup, as well as a variety of other services to help you skip the “techie” part, and get straight to using your new tech-tools. As always, Geek Squad Agents are standing by 24/7/365 at 1-800-GeekSquad and to help keep your unruly tech in order.


-Agent Shane N.


Geek Squad Online Support Agent Shane N serves the public by policing technology at

He is father to four boys who remind him that no matter how smart he thinks he is, they are smarter. He likes Sci-Fi and skateboarding.

Socially Safe

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Social networking websites are one of the fastest growing website genres on the internet. Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, etc. Connect, chat, and let people know what you are doing with just a click of the mouse or punch of the cell phone button. This is “the thing” to do nowadays, the way we keep in touch. With this easy of communication comes the possibility of exploitation. Today we are going to talk about the possible safety hazards of letting your guard down when socially networking via the internet.

There are a couple of set-in-stone ground rules that everyone needs to know about social networking websites. Let me share with you the same information I tell most of my clients:

• Social networking websites themselves are generally safe; The content people put on them, however, may not be. It is the human element you need to worry about.

• Always remember that any content you post on the internet will be there forever, for anyone to read, store, and republish

• Just because the screen says your friend John has sent you information doesn’t mean John is actually the person who did

• If it doesn’t “seem right” it probably is not right

• Things free or too good to be true, are. Just like in the “real world.”

Now that we are armed with those rules, let us run through a few possible scenarios. For instance, you hop onto a popular networking site to update your status and you see you have a message from your friend. We are talking about someone you know but does not frequently message you. You open the message and there is a link to what is described as a ‘cool video’ or some super-duper product that you should “check out.” The link doesn’t work, or for whatever reason it doesn’t seem to work. Or perhaps it is such as stupid thing you are wondering why your friend was even wasting your time. “No biggie” you may think. A week later, however, you find that you are getting popup ads left and right and your computer is slowing down.

What happened? Well your friend probably had a virus or spyware infection that spreads itself via sending messages to everyone who his is ‘friend,’ telling them to click on the link. When the link is clicked the spyware is installed. (Please remember that antivirus and antispyware programs are not always 100% effective) The spyware has been watching what you are typing, trying to steal credit card numbers, or otherwise is up to no good. Bam, you’ve been socially hacked.

Another scenario popping up lately involves micro-blogging websites. One of the most popular is Twitter. (Micro-blogging is posting status updates or information in only one to two sentences). There are several excellent micro-blogger humans out there reporting everything from celebrity updates, news hot off the press, and even your latest television show character developments.

However, there are also those micro-blogging accounts where it seems that some “person” is following the status updates of 5,000 people yet only 10 or 20 people are following them. This seems odd…who has the time to follow 5,000 people yet is not popular enough to warrant anybody ‘following’ what they are doing? Yet this random person just ‘followed’ or ‘added’ you to the list of people they listen in on? Weird! So what in the world is going on?

Well, it is completely feasible that this person is waiting for you, and the 5,000 other people, to post something that could be personally identifying. Maybe you don’t post revealing information all at once. Perhaps without realizing it you do it over the course of months. Like pieces of a puzzle to be assembled into a greater picture at a later time. Maybe you uploaded a photo revealing your address or house number in the background of your family picnic? Did you post something with your name on it, or tied to your name like the picture of the new car you bought? Did you just update your status about the burger joint on the corner of Main St and how you are eating there?

Believe it or not just with that simple information above a person can cause you a big headache. For example: With that house number, nearby the burger joint address, the make/model of your car or license plate number in a picture (and personal information tied to this plate number), or anything else you posted, someone could do something as simple as fill out a credit card application in your name. With the free credit card application they stole out of your mailbox. Or perhaps they could use this information to impersonate you in other ways. Ick, who the heck needs that sort of trouble!

That whole scenario seems like a lot of trouble for someone to go through, but it really is not that hard. There are freely available programs on the internet that can scour social networking websites for certain keywords multiple times per hour. When they hit upon this keyword, the program marks that post for future review by human eyes. That person who was following you now has all the information they need from your three months of blogging posts to paint an excellent picture of you. They could possibly step into your shoes if they wanted to.

So what can you do to protect yourself? Remember the set-in-stone rules I mentioned above. What appears to be, may not be true. Ask your friend you do not speak to often if they really sent you a funny video about a cat climbing the Christmas Tree before you open the message and follow the link.

Do not post anything on the internet you wouldn’t want someone to see no matter how innocuous it seems to be. Personally identifying information such as license plate numbers, house numbers or other addresses, specific names, how you went to Johnny’s High school and still live in the same town…things like that. Remember that this information is stored somewhere, likely in multiple places, for almost all eternity. Information can be used like pieces in a puzzle to paint a bigger picture of you.

Do not accept “friend requests” from people you do not know. Do not allow people to “follow” you if you do not know who they are. If you are unsure as to the authenticity of the person on the other end, ask them a piece or two of personal information that only the true person would know. Watch your children and make sure when they are on these social sites that they adhere to your rules and guidelines.

Trust your gut feeling. When a scenario seems odd it could mean someone is up to no good. In addition, remember when you cannot see the person on the other end of the internet connection you have no proof they are who they say they are.

I truly hope this information helps steer you towards trouble-free social waters. The internet is certainly an awesome way to connect and stay in touch at the speed of light. We need not be afraid of the web, but we do need to respect the power it can have over us if used incorrectly.

Now I think I will go post on Twitter that I have finished writing this blog…

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