04 April 2018
Are holiday selfies putting your home at risk?
Social media is a great way to share your adventures with friends and family, but is online sharing compromising real world security?
Holiday season is once again on the horizon, and many people are probably already booking their summer getaways, as well as the odd pre-holiday weekend mini-break to ease the wait time. As seasoned travellers, we are probably all confident in our plans for home security: cancelling the milkman, asking a friend or neighbour to collect the post and move the curtains, setting the timers to turn the lights on and off in order to mimic someone being at home, or even buying a new home security system. All great measures and ones that will help deter opportunistic burglars on the street. But have you considered if your social media is also secure? With a click of the post button on your gleeful “summer holiday – booked!!” status update, have you undermined your own security and put your home in danger?
It’s been known for a while that burglars can use social media to plan and execute break-ins, but many people choose to treat it as an urban myth. No doubt so did former England and Chelsea football player John Terry. In February 2016 Terry posted a picture on Instagram of his family in the snow, captioned with the information that they were enjoying a few days away in the French Alps. Alerted to the fact he was out of the country, a gang of at least four thieves then targeted the millionaire’s mansion and escaped with a staggering £400,000 worth of goods, including watches, designer bags and limited edition books. Not content with their haul, and confident the house was unoccupied they even came back for a second raid and attempted to open the safe before the alarm was triggered.
Now, it’s fair to say that if you go and post pictures of a sunny beach in the Algarve, or your hotdog legs pool-side in Gran Canaria, you might not reach the 3.4 million followers that Terry did, but there is still a definite risk with posting holiday information online as there’s no guarantee about who can see it. It may also invalidate your home insurance, as some companies now consider broadcasting your absence in an online public space as a contravention of the ‘reasonable care’ small print in your policy.
So what can you do to avoid any nasty surprises when you get back from your holiday? Here are our tips for reviewing your online habits to benefit your home security.
1. Don’t “check in” on social media when you get to the airport or hotel.
As tempting as it is to share your excitement about your 4am flight, it gives anyone watching your account a definite start date for your time away from home.
2. Avoid check ins altogether, especially at home.
It’s cute and fun to check in with your partner for a cosy film night at ‘our place’ or for a dinner party at ‘Chloe’s house’, but by checking in you’re allowing your social media platform to pin down that exact address, and that information can be useful to thieves. It won’t take a burglar two minutes to find your address on Google Maps and see the exact layout of the garden and target potential access points. This goes for nights out too, especially if you are going to a music event or show in the evening, as burglars will know they have a set window of opportunity.
3. Don’t fill your feed with first-day selfies by the pool.
This confirms your location and gives burglars confidence that you really are out of the country. Avoid tagging friends also, as this can compromise their own home security measures.
4. Don’t post lots of lovely holiday snaps every night.
Save them up and wait until you get home. Social media is a platform for sharing, that’s the appeal of it, but try to be conscious of what you are sharing, and how strangers might interpret it.
5. As good practice, avoid posting pictures of your home.
New gadgets and expensive possessions. Firstly, no one likes a brag! And although the new widescreen TV you got to watch the World Cup, or the designer handbag you bought your partner for Christmas may seem like old news to you, they will still be of interest to a burglar. Evidence of these purchases will be freely available on your feed, and whilst you’re sunning it up in St Tropez, thieves will be able to view your pictures like a shopping list and will know what to target in your home.
There’s no escaping that social media is part of our everyday lives, and our over sharing of information has become second nature as we find new ways to connect with one another and share our life events with friends and family. But by taking care in what you post, and reviewing your online sharing habits regularly, you can take steps to improve your real-world home security and keep your home and family safe.