You’re excited about an upcoming vacation to the coast, and you want all your friends to know. So you post on Facebook for two weeks before going. For the five days you’re at the beach, you post to Instagram once or twice a day. You want everyone to see how much fun you’re having. Your friends may be following your posts, but thieves and scammers may be as well. Let’s talk about why you shouldn’t post about travel before, or while, you’re away.
People love to tell the social media world about their personal or business travel, whether that’s vacations, holiday trips, conferences, or other travel. And almost no one thinks about the risk they’re taking.
Criminals monitor social media to see when you’re away from home, so that they can burgle your house or scam you or your family and friends.
I wasn’t able to find recent stats for the US, but in 2011 a UK study found that
78% of burglars use social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare to choose just where they’re going to break in next.
Also in 2011, Credit Sesame interviewed 50 ex-burglars in England and found that 80% used social media to plan robberies.
Although these stats are old, people haven’t learned their lesson, because posting about travel is still very common. In fact, The Telegraph recently reported that
Insurers are increasingly rejecting claims made by customers whose houses have been burgled while on holiday if they have shared the fact that they are away from home on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
The Financial Ombudsman and local police forces have both issued warnings about posting on social media while away, alerting would-be burglars to the fact that your house is empty, but every summer some customers have their claims rejected by insurers.
Unfortunately, home burglary isn’t the only reason criminals monitor social media. They know that when you’re traveling, you’re not paying close attention to your finances, so it’s an opportune time for financial theft and fraud. They also know that even if you do notice questionable activity, you’ll be slower than usual to respond to it.
People love to post photos of boarding passes, tickets, passports, and other travel-related documents. What they don’t realize is that bad actors can wreak havoc with the information contained in those documents. They can not only uncover your travel plans, they can potentially change them, causing you a major hassle. Worse, they can even steal your identity, if they get enough info.
If you tell the world you’re traveling, you’re not the only one who can be targeted. For years scammers have used this knowledge to contact the relatives of travelers (often their grandparents or parents). They tell them that you’re in trouble and they should send money to help you (the scammer collects the money).
Maybe you don’t post about your trip before you go, or while you’re away, but you still publish non-travel posts while traveling. Well, if you have location enabled on your posts, they’ll reveal that you’re away from home, even if your posts don’t have anything to do with your traveling.
And even if you have your settings configured to not broadcast your location, you may still be unknowingly sharing it through photos. Phones store the location a photo was taken within the code of each photo. Although major social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter remove this location info when you post your photos, not all sites and services do.
How to Increase Your Security & Privacy
I’ll make this as simple as possible. Don’t post about travel until you return home! And even then, be careful what you share.
Before your trip, inform only those who need to know, and do so privately, not through public or broad-audience posts. During your trip, save your photos, thoughts, etc., and share them once you’re safely home.
Never post photos of tickets, boarding passes, passports, etc. They reveal details that can be used to steal your identity, or scam you or those who know.
Don’t “check in” on social media or other platforms while traveling.
Don’t tag others in travel-related posts, before or during the trip. What about when others tag you? This is why it’s important to review your settings. Some platforms, such as Facebook, give you the option of preventing others from tagging you until you approve. See the Timeline and Tagging Settings section of my Facebook Security & Privacy Guide.
If others post or comment about your travel before or during your trip, delete their post or comment and send them a private message explaining why. Send them a link to this post! If you can’t delete their post or comment, send them a private message asking them to do so. Again, explain why.
Talk about this topic with those you travel with, so they’re aware of the dangers and how to protect themselves. You don’t need to remember everything I’ve talked about here; you can easily send them a link for them to read it themselves.
- What Not to Post on Facebook While on Vacation (lifewire.com)
- Five Tips to Stay Safe on Social Media While Traveling (securityintelligence.com)
- 7 Social Media Vacation Safety Tips (nationwide.com)
- Beware of Grandparent Scam (aarp.org)
- Why You Should Never Post Pictures of Your Flight Tickets or Keys (vice.com)
What You Should Do
- Don’t post about travel until you return home.
- Before your trip, privately inform only those who need to know.
- Never post photos of travel documents such as tickets, boarding passes, and passports.
- Don’t “check in” on social media or other platforms while traveling.
- Don’t tag others in travel-related posts, before or during the trip.
- Review your settings to require your approval before others can tag you in their posts.
- If others post or comment about your travel, before or during the trip, delete their post or comment and explain why.
- Talk about this topic with those you travel with.