It’s summer and for many that means those two glorious words: Summer Vacation! And summer vacations (well, vacations ANY time of the year) are exciting, right? So of course you want to share your excitement and plans online with your Facebook friends, Twitter followers, Pinterest followers, and other social media connections you have, right? Think again! Sharing your vacation plans before and during your vacation can put your home at risk to opportunistic burglars.
Take a look at the status updates being posted by your friends this summer. I’d guess at least a few have posted status updates from vacation spots describing the great time they are having, or about their travel nightmares at the airport, or pictures of the fun they are having far away from home. I can easily remember several such postings from my social media connections that were posted just in the last few days. And while I enjoy hearing about all the cool places they are visiting and seeing their pictures, I can’t help but wonder who else is out there seeing these posts and just waiting to take advantage of the obvious fact that these homes are being left unattended. Because as much as we’d like to think that even when we set our status updates to “private” or “friends only”, the truth of the matter is, once something is on the internet, it can still be accessed by almost anyone.
Another thing to remember is if your friends are leaving comments on your posts, some settings can allow their friends to see your posts, even if they aren’t your friends. Or if someone sends a friend request or subscribes to your updates, they may be able to see posts you didn’t intend for anyone outside your friends list. If you have location-based updates on any post or photo or if you “check-in” to a location, you’ve just told everyone where you are NOT – your house. Did you know there is even a site called PleaseRobMe.com that aggregates publicly shared posts made to several social media sites that people have made indicating they are not home? The site says its intention is to warn people of the dangers of posting such information, and wow, I think they’ve made their point. It’s just safer to assume that every post you make is a public one.
So how can you have a worry-free vacation without the dangers? Here are some tips to follow to keep your home safe while you are away:
- If you use social media sites that have location-based services, disable your location setting and also do not “check-in” on Facebook, FourSquare, Gowalla and similar sites while you are away.
- Don’t post a countdown to your vacation or any other indication that you will be leaving your home. Don’t share your travel plans with (anyone online or offline) that isn’t absolutely necessary to share it with except people you completely trust.
- If you use an auto-responder message for your home or work email to let people know you won’t be able to answer their emails while you are vacation, just say you will be offline. Don’t give information about being on vacation or traveling.
- As tempting as it is to share immediately, wait until you return from your vacation to post about it or share pictures. Your friends and family be just as happy for you (or jealous of you) after your vacation as they would be during your trip.
- Make sure your kids understand not to post any vacation plans on their social media sites and to be very selective who they tell about your vacation plans, even offline. Explain to them the importance of waiting until after the vacation to post any information and/or pictures.
- Ask your relatives and any friends who know you will be going on vacation to refrain from posting anything on social media sites related to your vacation until after your return. That includes no posting comments on your wall asking how your trip is going or when will you return, etc.
- If your vacation plans or any info about your not being at home gets leaked online, then you might want to post a comment or update that makes it sound like you are either back at home or that someone is there, such as a house-sitter.
Just a side note, you’ve probably seen me post about vacations and business trips on my social media sites if we are connected on any, and yes, sometimes I do post my plans or photos taken while I’m away (usually conferences I’m speaking at or attending). Almost always, these are trips I’ve taken by myself or trips where there is still someone at our house full-time. When the whole family is gone and we do not have a full time house-sitter available, we are fortunate to have trusted, watchful neighbors who check on our house, check the mail and bring in newspapers, and keep a close eye out for any suspicious activity. We also have a guard dog. So beware!
For more vacation safety tips and for advice for avoiding identity theft when traveling, please visit the Identity Guard Resource Center. While you are there, take a look at all they have to offer to help protect your identity and your kids’ identities from identity theft. One of the most frustrating and difficult crimes to deal with, identity theft has been on the rise as technology offers new ways for identity thieves to access private information. Identity Guard has been protecting people for over decade by monitoring and alerting their customers to certain kinds of activity involving personal information.
This post has been sponsored by Identity Guard as part of my ambassadorship with their kID Sure Child Identity Protection service. It has been an honor to be a kID Sure Ambassador this year and I can honestly say it is a relief to know my child’s identity is being monitored and protected. Realizing adults are not the only targets of identity thieves, Identity Guard created kID Sure Child Identity Protection to protect children, who are often targeted because most people won’t be aware of the theft until the child is old enough to apply for college or a loan. They may not discover the theft until years after it occurred and then it can take years to prove the fraudulent use and restore the child’s identity. So do your identity a favor and get Identity Guard, and all the details you need to know about identity theft and how to help yourself stay safe from it.
Your turn! Do you post your vacation plans online? Has this post made you think twice about sharing vacation info and plans before and during your trip? Do you have other tips to protect your home when traveling?
FTC Disclosure: This service was provided to me for review at no charge. In addition I received monetary compensation. All opinions are my own.