exposing your identity social mediaWe live in a culture that shares everything, even the things that shouldn’t be shared. While it’s certainly important to think twice before sharing potentially embarrassing moments or inflammatory thoughts on social media, it’s imperative that you steer clear of sharing anything that could expose your identity. Unfortunately, because we are becoming conditioned to tweeting, snapping and instagramming every little thing that happens in our lives, common sense can easily go straight out the window.

A good example of this is the alarmingly common practice of people posting pictures of their credit or debit cards on social media. This is such a frequent occurrence on Twitter that there have been numerous articles and even a Twitter account dedicated to calling these oversharers out. Most people with a little bit of common sense aren’t going to snap and share a photo of their payment card — but there are probably other ways you expose your identity online without even realizing it. We’ve compiled a list of tips to help you prevent putting your identity at risk.

How to keep your identity protected online

1. Don’t share pictures of your ID, credit card or important documents. A general rule of thumb: if it has your name, address, phone number or any other type of identifying information on it, you probably shouldn’t post a photo of it. This includes the big items, like your social security card and checks, but also things you might not think would put your identity at risk — such as your flight boarding pass. If you absolutely must show off your new driver’s license photo to prove to friends and family everywhere that it is possible to take a great picture at the DMV, use a photo editing software to blur or black out any identifying information before posting.

2. Disable geolocation for photos taken by your phone. When it comes to taking and sharing photos, it’s also important to remember that even if your photo doesn’t show any personal information, it’s possible for it to expose your exact location. How is this possible? Most smartphones are equipped with geolocation technology, which uses GPS to track where you are. When you snap a photo, your location information at the time the photo is taken is stored with the picture. This means anyone with access to your social media profile can potentially figure out exactly where you live or work just by reading the data stored in your photos. Learn more about geolocation and how to disable it here.

3. Talk to the kids in your life about safe sharing. Considering many adults are guilty of making posts that expose their identity online, it should be assumed that young adults and children are even more apt to commit these blunders. While it’s not too difficult for parents and guardians to monitor Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr, other apps like Snapchat can make it easy for kids to share on the sly — which could get them into trouble. That’s why it’s important to talk to young people about the dangers of sharing too much information, as well as consider monitoring their activity online to ensure that your message is getting through.

4. Strengthen your privacy settings. Even though you should be taking care not to share photos and posts that expose your identity online, you can also create a buffer by utilizing the privacy settings afforded to you by the various social networks you use to prevent anyone and everyone from seeing what you post. Most social networks allow you to protect your posts — Facebook’s privacy settings allow for extreme control, while other social networks like Twitter and Instagram are less intricate while still letting you keep your posts set to “friends only.” Minimizing your social media audience helps make it less likely that someone with malicious intent will be snooping around your posts — however, it’s still important to avoid posting anything revealing.

5. Search for yourself regularly. Many people have no idea what’s out there under their name online. It’s a good practice to occasionally search for yourself on Google and other search engines to stay on top of anything that has been posted which could potentially expose your identity. Maybe you forgot about that blog you started as a teenager, or perhaps someone has been impersonating you on Facebook. Searching not only your name and variations of it, but also any frequently used usernames or emails can be helpful in exposing any potentially damaging information that might be lurking on the web.

6. Employ the assistance of an identity theft protection service. Even if you aren’t intentionally exposing your identity online, mistakes happen — as does run-of-the-mill identity theft. You can’t always be aware of every single misuse of your information on the Internet, but you can put an identity theft protection service in charge of scanning the Internet’s black market and other areas where stolen identities can be found to catch any information of yours that’s being traded, sold or otherwise misused. Many of these services — such as TrustedID — also offer technology that scans your Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts to look for potential privacy problems, and in the event your identity is stolen, you can count on your identity theft protection service to help with the restoration process.

Read our identity theft protection reviews to determine which service will fit the needs of you and your family, and be sure to follow our identity theft blog for more tips and tricks to keeping your identity safe.