By Officer Larry Jacobs

Facebook and other social networking sites are a great way to network and to stay in touch with family and friends.

But always remember though that there are criminals out there that are constantly scanning these sites for personal information that they can use to commit crimes.

As with most social media, how you use Facebook can make a difference in how well you protect your private information from people who would steal or otherwise abuse it. Taking any or all of these steps will help to protect you from crimes such as identity theft.

Facebook’s privacy controls are quite extensive, but can be tricky to use. Consumer Reports magazine recommends you take these steps to protect your privacy on Facebook:

1) Always consider your audience before you post your private information, such as identifying your employer, your religious beliefs and political views.

2) Make sure to check your exposure on a regular basis. Every once in a while, view your Facebook page as others see it. You can do this by going to your home page, clicking on your user name to go to your timeline page, then clicking on the menu to the right of your name and photo, then select view as. This way you can see what information is out there and it will help you adjust the security settings you use.

3) Protect basic information, such as your date of birth, relationship status, family relationships and employer.

4) Know what you can and cannot protect. Your Facebook name and profile photo remain accessible to everyone on the web. You can protect yourself by keeping others from capturing an image of your face by not having a profile photo or using an image of something other than your face.

5) Your audience is automatically set to public unless you change it. Remember, if you leave it set to public, everyone can view all of your information which puts you at risk.

6) Make sure to block snooping apps. Unless you intercede, friends can share your personal information about you with apps they use. You can protect yourself by either turning off all apps or you can restrict information you share with these apps.

7) Keep status updates from friends without unfriending them. You can go into privacy settings, then go to blocked people and apps and select manage blocking.

8) If worse comes to worse, deactivate or delete your account.

Always take steps to protect yourself.

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Officer Larry Jacobs is a crime prevention specialist with Crime Prevention Unit of the Sandy Springs Police Department. He can be reached at