Social networking websites are a great way to stay in touch with friends and family, but they can also pose a serious identity theft risk. Keep reading for great tips on how to enjoy social networking websites, while still protecting yourself from online identity theft.

Because many social networking sites are viewable by anyone as a default, any information you enter into your profile could be easily searched and available to the world. Most people give little thought to posting their birthday, where they were born, and full name, but sometimes even this small amount of information can be all a professional identity thief needs to access your identity.

One of the simplest ways to increase security is to set your profile page to private. Most social networking websites, like MySpace or Facebook, will allow you to control who can and cannot see your profile. By only allowing your personal friends access to your information, you’re significantly reducing the risk.

Another easy way to protect your identity is simply to not include private information in your online profile. Don’t post your address and phone number where the world can see it. Consider this, if your address or city is posted and you write a post on your profile that reads “will write soon, am off to Denver for 10 days,” not only will a likely identity thief have your address, but also the knowledge that your mailbox will be unsupervised for the next 10 days. So not safe.

Finally, before posting anything online, really consider whether or not its necessary. Ask yourself if you’d write that information on a bathroom wall or distribute it on a flyer. If the answer is no, then perhaps you should not be posting it at all. Remember, social networking can be fun, but make sure you’re the one in control.