Social media is a great place for sharing updates and talking with your friends and family. Whether you're sharing a picture of your new puppy, sharing photos from your holiday to Brighton or messaging an old friend, social media can be a great way to update your friends on what is going on in your life and finding out about theirs.

However, we always need to be careful. Not only with what we are sharing, but who we are sharing it with.

In this lesson, we will help you feel more confident about staying safe while using social media. If you haven't yet, we suggest you take our lessons 'Introduction to online safety' and 'Ten tips for staying safe online' first.


  • Feel more comfortable using social media safely.
  • Protect your personal information.
  • Keep your friends and family safe.

Read time

7 mins

What are you sharing online?

Before posting anything on social media it's always good to pause and think, 'what could someone do with this information?' For example, let's imagine you are going on holiday for two weeks. You post a status on social media checking in to an airport saying, “so excited to go away with the whole family for 2 weeks!!”. Well now you have told all of your followers that your house is completely unattended for 2 weeks. Instead wait until you are home from your holiday to post any pictures and videos.



Always ask yourself, “what could someone do with this?” before posting.

Who are you sharing personal details with?

Another thing to keep in mind is who you are sharing with. Make sure that your social media is as secure as you can. That means adjusting your settings and keeping personal details private as possible.


You can do this on all social media platforms, for example:

  • On Facebook, you can change your settings to friends only
  • On Instagram, you can change your profile to a private profile instead of a public one
  • On Twitter, you can set your profile to private instead of public

The benefits of restricting your social media

The benefit of having these enabled is that you can specify exactly who can see your personal details. If someone wants to see your posts, they will need to follow you or add you as a friend. This allows you to accept or deny their request.

On some sites you can also have different rules for different posts and information. On Facebook, for example, you can alter who sees each post or piece of information. For example, you might share your birthday with friends only. Whereas you might change your settings so you are the only one who can see your email address.

On Instagram, you can set people as 'close friends'. What this allows you to do is have a public and private persona. Meaning, you can post publicly about things that don't give too much away, like photos of food or pieces of art you've created. On the other hand, you can post privately to just your close friends to show them your holiday snaps.

Having these privacy settings on is only useful if you are cautious with who you accept as friends/followers. When someone requests to be your friend/follower, you need to ask yourself, why would this person want to see my information?


Social media scams

Social media presents a perfect platform for scammers. It gives them a place to easily reach out to targets with both private messages and posts and also allows them to sell items on the internet. There's always one thing to remember to help you deal with a scam. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.


Social media purchase scams

This type of scam occurs when someone sells on social media and does not deliver. They will either send you something different or deliver nothing.

It's important to make sure that you are buying from a trusted seller that has real reviews. You should be careful ordering from random websites on the internet that are advertised on social media. Always check they are reputable businesses before you buy.

You should also be careful buying from people on social media. Social media shops allow you to buy from other people and small businesses. If you're buying through social media, never pay for the product before you've seen them in person. You should also be careful about meeting with people in person. If you do need to meet a seller to collect, always do so in a public place. You should have people around you that you know and can trust so you can make sure you're safe.

It's often best to avoid this kind of shopping if you can, by buying through known shops instead. You are always more protected paying through a trusted website than paying directly into someone's account.

Scammers can also do this with investments. The scammer will post about a financial opportunity that you can invest in. They may promise that it will give you a large return on your money.

Messages and offers like these are usually a scam. It is important to always do your own research before you invest.

Another way this works is through accounts or advertisements that say they will double your money in 24 hours. They will ask you to send them money directly into their bank account, but you won't get any money back.

So, remember: no matter what is promised, you should never send someone you don't know money. They may promise returns and come with lots of 'positive reviews'. But reviews and evidence of returns can be fake and untrustworthy.

Purchase scam

As we said earlier, this type of scam occurs when someone advertises a product or service on the internet and then doesn't deliver what they said.

Make sure that the products you are buying are from a well-known shop that has real reviews. Be careful ordering from random websites advertised on social media. Always check they are real businesses before you buy.

You should also be careful buying from people on social media shops. Social media shops allow you to buy from other people and small businesses. If you're buying through social media, never pay before you've seen the item in person. You should also be careful about meeting with people in person too. If you do need to meet a seller, always do so in a public place you know, so you can make sure you're safe. If you can, use well-known shops instead.

How to stay safe

It can be very difficult to understand what is fake and what is real on social media. In general, it is always a good idea to be cautious about everything. If you are unsure about something you should always ask someone else for help or check what you're experiencing through a separate source.

As we said before, The first thing to do is report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or online at If you're in Scotland, you can contact Police Scotland on 101 .

Once you've done that, you should try to take steps to stop further damage. If the scam affects your bank account, you should contact your bank immediately. If you think someone has one of your passwords, take action to change your password immediately.



If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Always ask for a second opinion when presented with an opportunity that sounds too good to be true. Remember – stop, challenge, protect.

Module complete!

Well done on completing this lesson! You should now feel more prepared to stay safe on social media. We suggest you continue with the next lesson in 'Staying Safe Online' – 'Finding information online'. This lesson will help you to use the internet to find out information. It will also show you how to find movies, music, photos and more. So, the next time you need to know something you can feel ready to go online and find what you need.


Up next for you:

Next module: Finding information online

Back to: Staying Safe Online

Scottish Widows Be Money Well is committed to providing information in a way that is accessible and useful for our users. This information, however, is not in any way intended to amount to authority or advice on which reliance should be placed. You should seek professional advice as appropriate and required. Any sites, products or services named in this module are just examples of what's available. Scottish Widows does not endorse the services they provide. The information in this module was last updated on 31st Oct 2022.