social media risk empty house

Social media security risks on vacation

by Michael on October 21, 2018

After the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl this year (a fact we still like to repeat) what got a bit less attention was the fact that New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski returned from his team’s loss to find out that his house had been robbed in his absence. Unfortunately, for a public figure playing in the nation’s most watched sporting event, it was difficult to hide the fact that his house would be empty that week. But that shouldn’t be a problem for ordinary folk like you and us: but it is. There are definite social media risks to updating your status while away on vacation.

These days, many people are pretty loose with what they share on social media, and this behavior isn’t just confined to tweens. Older adults are active on Facebook and other social media platforms and think nothing of telling the world about their upcoming travel plans. How convenient that is for would-be burglars to know when a residence will be empty. It’s sort of like the couple below just handing their keys to you.

Lest ye think this is unlikely, police in Glastonbury, Connecticut recently arrested a Hartford couple that was robbing homes in the upscale community. How did they know the houses would be empty? They researched social media to see who mentioned upcoming trips or even posted vacation photos in real-time while they were away.

Could you imagine your parents taking out an ad in the local paper to announce when the house would be empty? We didn’t think so. The lesson here is do not share news about when you will be away on social media and never share photos while you’re gone. While you think only your friends can see your posts, that’s not always the case.

Don’t just take our word for it. According to the Philadelphia Police Force, “Do not post about your vacation on Facebook or any other Social Media site until after you get back. If that takes more discipline than you can muster, at the very least keep your location status off any public social networking pages.” Change your privacy settings before you travel; it’s safe to assume the default setting for most social networks is “public.” Your friends can still give your photos a “thumbs up” after you’ve returned.

For more ideas about keeping your home safe while traveling, read this post about vacation planning tips on the Philly Police blog.

Always assume that the default mode for social media privacy settings is to automatically share things. Which brings up Airbnb. While we love using this service, it constantly annoys us that the default mode for wish lists for places to stay is automatically public. That’s right, anyone in the world, they don’t even have to be an Airbnb member, can find you on Airbnb and figure out where you have stayed and where you want to stay next. We can’t imagine Marriott or Hilton doing that. So go in your account and change all your settings to private.

And while we’re on our tirade, we ask you to do something today: change your birthday on Facebook to one that’s not the actual day you entered the world. (Here’s a chance to make yourself younger.) Sure, you’ll get less birthday greetings on your actual special day, but you’ll also help foil identity thieves in the process.

Larissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

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