THE TRAVELLERS DILEMMA: to post or not to post?

It’s that time of the year where you get to put your feet up and enjoy that all important Easter holiday break. You’re excited about your upcoming vacation to the bush, the beach or you’ve FINALLY been allowed out the country amidst this pandemic. I know, I’ve just been on holiday to Namibia myself and I wanted to share my amazing experiences with everyone I know and make them a little bit jealous. Here’s the thing though – your friends may be following your posts, but thieves and scammers could be as well.

Whether you’re on vacation, at a conference or any other type of travel, by posting that selfie no one thinks about the risk they’re taking. Now I love taking photo’s, more so in the game reserve but I get by with some pretty awesome photos (as you’ll see throughout this blog) but you’ll be surprised to hear that I don’t often post them, the obvious reason is security, both my personal and my home. I’ve learned over the many years of traveling that it isn’t safe to post your travel updates live. It’s not easy, I get it – you want to share that sexy bikini bod but if you’re already here in this write-up then maybe just carry on reading and heed my travel sharing advice.

Those pesky burglars:

While taking this photo with my fiancé, I thought about how if I posted it online, looters could be in my house stealing my stuff and while I’m not a person who is attached to the contents of my home – it would still SUCK to come home to an empty house. So… I waited until I returned home to post my photos.

Criminals monitor social media to see if you’re away from home, yes people actually do this for a living, so they can break in and steal your stuff or even scam your family and friends. (ie: HELP I’M STUCK IN A COUNTRY WITH NO MONEY, CAN’T GET HOME!!!) A 2011 UK study found that 78% of burglars use social media such as Twitter and Facebook to choose just where they’re going to break in next. Now I know that study is ancient but it still seems that people have not learnt their lesson.

You also need to be aware that insurance brokers are increasingly rejecting claims made by customers whose houses are burgled while on holiday IF they’ve shared, updated your status, tweeted, commented on, made a story, did a duet, etc etc (you get the point) on any social media, including WhatsApp. Most insurance policies will require holders to take reasonable care in keeping their property safe and secure. They may well consider a social media post revealing that the property is empty as being in breach of this requirement.

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. Then there is that all important “check-in”, surprise surprise… phones and cameras store the location a photo was taken within the code of each image, generally this is done with GPS coordinates in the metadata. Lastly, from my own personal experience, please try avoid those Lion, Rhino, Elephant photos with geo-location tracking on them – you’re telling poachers where the animals were last seen!

So hold those vacation statuses until you get home, and, for the same reason, don’t post travel countdowns in the lead up to your trip. You’re just giving thieves the time for planning.

Don’t think that only your friends can see your posts:

If you have 500 million friends or followers then yes – lots of people will see your content. If your friends like, share, comment, etc then THEIR friends will see your content. (in legal terms this is called Chain of Publication – but that’s just an FYI) If you’re like me and go on a Social Network friend deleting binge every year and have less than 150 friends then your content is less likely to go viral BUT there is still something called shoulder surfing. Some creep looks over your friends shoulder at the coffee shop or they overhear a conversation about you not being home. Remember Kim Kardashian being held up at gun point in Paris and had her $4 million diamond ring stolen? Well, those thieves got the info off of social media and a few too many people blabbing!

Try not tag photos of friends or family you’re vacationing with while on vacation either. Tagging them reveals their current location too, and even if you don’t care, they might not want this information about themselves out there. Every person has a right to privacy and if you share photo’s of them online they may request that you take it down. My parents have always been quite private and request every family gathering or holiday that you please don’t post photo’s of them online. That’s their choice and I promise to always uphold their wishes so rather ask before you post. 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. If you can’t delete their post or comment, send them a private message asking them to do so.

To stop family and friends from tagging you, there is this magical thing that Facebook did and it’s called “tag review”, meaning you have to approve any and all tags before they publish. Not a lot of Social Media’s have this option but try see if you can find them in the privacy settings section.

Identity scams:

Burglary isn’t the only type of theft that you can encourage by broadcasting to the world that you’re traveling. If that dodgy dude gets enough information they can potentially steal your identity. Avoid posting photos of tickets, boarding passes, car rentals, passports, credit cards and anything with your personal information on it. If you insist on doing so then please take the time to blur the important information – ticket barcode included! They reveal details that can be used to steal your identity and money, or even scam you or those who know.

But it’s for FREE!

Free internet or “Always On” is kinda something we expect when traveling, especially when it comes to posting travel snaps live. I mean who can afford the data costs right? Don’t be left in the dark or the money lurch… Criminals have even been known to set up WiFi hotspots (also called Pineapples – don’t ask me why? I don’t know, maybe someone was hungry while hacking) specifically to trick people into connecting, so they can hack or infect your device with malware.

Obviously, completely disconnecting just isn’t going to happen for most of us so I would recommend that you buy a local sim card or use an app like FlexiRoam and hotspot between your phone and laptop but since you probably don’t want to do that, why not try use a VPN (Virtual Private Network). A VPN is kinda like a middle man for the internet as it encrypts your traffic before it reaches your Internet Service Providers (you know – the guys that bring the magic… Vodacom, Vox, Edge, Vuma, MTN – no I’m not being paid to give you examples), which means that only you and your VPN server can “see” it.

Be one with the holiday and don’t be THAT GUY!

When on holiday, I want to enjoy it – I don’t want to have my nose in my phone and miss out on experiences purely because I want the online attention. Does it REALLY matter if you post now or later? You’re still going to get the likes, loves and all round jealousy, so why not live in the moment!

Right – another pet peeve… Don’t be that guy, you know the annoying one that gets in my personal pictures… Also the guy that needs to document EVERY part of the holiday, the one that needs to stop 500 million times to take a picture of a rock when there is a perfectly good rock down the road? I want to share moments and create memories, not have you focused on your device and getting the perfect rock! I think people are posting on social media as a reflex and not to document the story. I find there is little thought behind it and often the tale is lost between writer and reader. 

So make it count! I’m not saying don’t post, rather share your trip with thought once you are back… Plus who doesn’t like to relive your holiday once you are home and back to the grind, I know I did 😉

Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.

For more information on how to keep yourself, your business and your family safe online follow Cyber Angels SA on any of our Social Media channels. For any information regarding Cyberlinx Security services, please go to our website www.cyberlinx.co.za

Photo credit: Robyn Bartlett | Garth Bartlett | Kerri Smith | Warren De Abreu 

Written by: Robyn Bartlett