Going On Holiday? Stay Off Social Media To Protect Your Home From Robbers

Co-author – Ellie McLachlan

Our addiction to social media makes it much easier for thieves to know when we’re away on holidays, and might just make it tricky to claim on your home insurance.

Do you love posting spontaneous and not-at-all-filtered happy snaps of your beach getaway or family camping trip on Instagram and Facebook? Or perhaps a few #wishyouwerehere or #beachgetaway hashtags on Twitter? Research by insurance provider GIO has found that your aspirational posts could be inspiring for thieves rather than friends!

GIO’s home security study from 2016 shows more than a third (34%) of people update their social media accounts with upcoming holiday plans. Half of all people surveyed said they posted updates while away on holidays with the majority ‘checking in’ to specific destinations or taking a ‘selfie’. And while posting a ‘selfie’ on Instagram may seem perfectly innocent at the time, it could come back to bite you.

Did you know that insurers are now checking your social media activity to verify the claim information you give them? So if the worst does happen – and your home is broken into while on vacation – your home and contents insurer might look you up online to see if your activity advertised your absence.

Your insurance provider expects you to take ‘reasonable care’ when it comes to the security of your home and contents, and if they find (on social media or elsewhere) that you failed to do so, then you may be excluded from claiming for cover.

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You wouldn’t leave your house unlocked, so why do the same with your online identity?

GIO spokesman Stephen Bell says residents should think twice before sharing their personal information online because it is a security risk.

“Australians are among the world’s biggest consumers of social media. We’re addicted to our smartphones; we check our social media accounts more than 10 times a day and live in a society where some feel compelled to share our every move and life event online,” Mr Bell said.

“The danger is many are neglecting to check their online privacy settings leaving information about your contents and whereabouts accessible to strangers. They can work out you’re not at home and sometimes what you’ve left behind.

“You wouldn’t leave your front door unlocked or leave your possessions on display on your front lawn, so why would you not do the same with your online identity?” he said.

A 2014 study from the Australian Institute of Criminology found that 78% of former burglars believe that thieves use social media networks to monitor status updates and specifically target homes for burglary.

Nearly three-quarters believe that Google Street View is also playing a role in thefts, allowing thieves to check out the property online before entering.

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Many of us have strangers on our social networks and barely check our privacy settings

Worryingly, GIO’s study also found that despite sharing personal information, a third (30%) of people said they do not personally know everyone on their social networks. One in seven (14%) admitted their updates are open to the whole social media community.  In addition:

  • One in five people checks their privacy settings less than once a year or not at all.
  • One in 10 people checks their privacy settings less than every six months but at least once a year.
  • One in 10 people don’t know the privacy status of their accounts.

“While social media is a great way to share life’s milestones with friends and family, it should not come at the expense of your privacy and your home’s security. Every precaution should be taken to prevent leaving an online trail of breadcrumbs leading thieves to your door,” said Mr Bell.

“People tend to forget that the financial value of items, such as jewellery, wearable technology, tablets and other gadgets, accumulates over time and can be quite expensive to replace. More than that, the sentimental value is irreplaceable,” he said.

4 tips to stay safe on social media and lower the risk of a break in

By being more aware of your social media activity and making a few small changes, you might avoid tipping off suspect individuals that you are away from home.

Here a few key tips to help you stay safe on social media:

1.      Review your privacy settings

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter often change their privacy settings, so make sure your information is only shared with friends and followers who you would like to see your information. It might be worth making your address or phone number private in particular, as this could lead thieves directly to your home.

2.      Cull your friends list

Don’t worry about offending a few people, just get onto your account and consider who you really want viewing your life online. Take the time to go through and cull your friends list, because if you can’t trust everyone face-to-face, then it’s probably not a good idea to trust them with your details online.

3.      Location, location, location – be aware of it

Owning a smartphone can be very handy, but it also means most of your apps will be tracking your location everyday. Even messaging services can reveal your location if you agree to it. Remember that these location services show where you are, but also where you aren’t.

4.      Hold back on the holiday selfies

Avoid promoting your absence on social media, whether that be through a status update or posting a selfie of an overseas trip with geotags. The more you reveal about yourself and your location online, the more you could be compromising your security or the security of your home.

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