Exercise Caution On Social Networking Sites

2 Comments Posted by Alyssa Noonan in Product Solutions, Technology on Wednesday, June 10th, 2009.

Social networking websites are a vital part of your veterinary hospital’s website marketing strategy—and a fun way to connect with your clients and employees as well. But not all of them are harmless. As your veterinary hospital expands its presence on the internet, exercise caution when it comes to social networking sites.

Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn are among the most popular social networking sites, but there are hundreds of other sites out there vying for users. Some use very aggressive tactics to attract new members—methods that are similar to those used by spammers and hackers looking to spread viruses.

For example, when new users sign up for the social networking site Tagged.com, they’re asked to supply an email address and a password for that email account in order to help new users find friends on the site. However, the site actually sends an unsolicited email to every entry in the user’s address book, flooding his or her contacts with spam. In some cases, a second round of unsolicited emails is sent a few days later.

The website Classmates.com employs a similar strategy and uses information from users’ email address books to send out unsolicited spam messages to non-members, usually claiming that “a classmate is looking for you” on the site. The site MyLife.com (formerly known as Reunion.com) also hijacks users’ email address books in order to send unsolicited emails to non-members. All three sites have faced heavy criticism for these practices.

Major social networking sites are not immune to dirty tricks. For every friendly face you find on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and so on, there are dozens of other malicious users lurking about, eager to trick you into giving up your password and other important personal information. This practice is known as “phishing” and is a reminder that, even on the most trusted social networking sites, you must still exercise a fair amount of caution.

Since April 2009, phishing attempts on Twitter and Facebook have increased drastically. Vague messages from friends encouraging you to check out a link to another website may be an attempt to gain your personal information. If a message or link seems out of character or different from what a friend might normally send, don’t click on it!

General Social Networking Safety Tips:

  • Choose your preferred social network carefully. Evaluate the site, read the privacy policy and terms of service (TOS). Remember, you’ll be entering a fair amount of personal information on this site – treat it the same way you would treat a website to which you supply credit card information.
  • Approach all links carefully. Let’s say you’ve received a terse message from a friend that says only, “Check this out!” followed by a link to an unknown site. If the link takes you to another login page, don’t enter any of your personal information!
  • Be wary of following links to social networking sites from unfamiliar sites on the internet. If you want to sign into your Facebook account, for example, it’s always best to type the address directly into your web browser.
  • Many social networking sites feature the ability to use your email address book to find new contacts. This is accomplished by providing the site with your email login information. Avoid sharing your login information with any outside service. If you must do so, change your password afterward.
  • It may be tempting to use the same password for everything, but try to avoid this. If by chance your account is phished, hackers gain your email address and password for that account—if you use the same info across sites, they can access your other accounts and personal information as well.
  • When signing up on a new social networking site, review the terms of service (TOS) carefully and make sure they’re not sending out unsolicited emails in your name. Classmates.com and Tagged.com particularly are known for doing this.
  • Make sure your computer is equipped with an anti-virus program and your software (including security patches and updates for Windows) is up to date.

Social networking can yield many benefits for your veterinary hospital’s website. Following the above simple steps can keep you—and your personal information—safe when you’re out making connections on the web.

Written and Copyright ©
Mark Feltz, DVM
VetNetwork, LLC 2010

2 Comments for Exercise Caution On Social Networking Sites

Dallas | June 10, 2009 at 6:35 pm

Same annoying thing with Classmates.com. Overall, social networking software is a great tool to stay in touch and to facilitate communication B2C or even B2B, but it can become dangerous when people are carelessly signing up and handing out their email and everyone else they know.

VetNetwork Blog » Social network site Tagged.com sued for harvesting emails » Websites, Newsletters, Brochures, Logos, Search Engine, SEO, Blogs, Blogging and Marketing for Veterinary Hospitals | August 19, 2009 at 11:07 am

[…] in June, our post on exercising caution on social networking sites included information about Tagged.com, a social networking site that harvested email addresses from […]

Leave a comment!