How vulnerable are you on social media?
Have you ever posted on social media about going away on holiday, or purchasing a new home or car? With so many social media profiles being public, just how much can you afford to share about your life with strangers?
Social media is no longer just a place to sporadically update our friends and families on our comings and goings. Instead, we’re now able to publish our entire lives online, from personal information such as where we live and work, to holiday snapshots. However, our tendency to overshare can create opportunities for burglars and fraudsters, leaving us vulnerable to crime.
It can be easy to forget that it’s not just you and your smartphone, and that there are potentially hundreds, thousands, or even millions of spectators on the other side, who can see exactly what you’ve posted on social media. That’s why we’ve teamed up with security experts Yale to carry out a study into what people are publicly sharing on their pages.
We’ve separated posts into “vulnerability categories”, such as ‘Going on holiday’, and split the data out by region – find out what people in your city are sharing with our interactive map, which shows the clear correlation between social posting and crime in the UK.
Make your profile private if possible, which will give you the greatest protection against being targeted
Worryingly, our research* has shown that over 76,000 Twitter users publicly posted about their upcoming holidays, with some even specifying exactly when they’d be leaving. And out of all the regions in the UK, people in the North West were 82% more likely to post about their holidays, with Mancunians in particular tending to brag the most! This could be anything from ‘checking in’ at the airport before a flight, to a shot of an elaborate tropical cocktail – whatever you choose to share, you’re basically advertising the fact that your home is unoccupied to budding burglars.
So, as tempting as it may be to post holiday updates in real-time, don’t – instead, enjoy your time away and upload photos retrospectively, once you’re back home.
In the same timeframe, over 5,000 people posted publicly on Twitter or Instagram about being away from the home for a night out or event. The same advice applies: change your behaviour and wait until you return home to comment on how great your meal or concert was. Always remember that burglars prefer to strike when they're certain no-one is home, and once they've identified that a house is empty, they can easily make off with your belongings in the few hours that you're away.
Once again, the North West was identified as a riskier region, with people 70% more likely than the rest of the UK to share too much information about their social lives.
As tempting as it may be to post holiday updates in real-time, don’t – instead, enjoy your time away
Our research has also shown that over 8,000 Instagram users shared a public photo of their new home, using the hashtag #newhouse or #newhome. As images like these often show house numbers, and big-ticket items such TVs and computers, you can see how easy it is for an opportunistic burglar to take advantage.
Our advice? Avoid any photos that may show identifying features of your house, which people in the South East should pay particular attention to – they were found to be 96% more likely than the rest of the UK to post about their new homes.
Again, those in the South East are more likely to talk about their new cars on their social pages – 103% more than the rest of the UK, to be exact, with over 2,700 Instagram users in the region showing off about their spanking set of wheels.
While we’d advise not posting any pics of your new car at all, if you simply can’t resist then at least remember to obscure the number plate!
As mentioned, it's not just burglars you have to be mindful of when sharing information on social media, but also fraudsters – it's not difficult for criminals to connect the dots if you volunteer personal details such as your full name, age, address and house number in your public profile.
We recommend that you familiarise yourself with the privacy settings on the social network you belong to, and make sure you're comfortable with them. Make your profile private if possible, which will give you the greatest protection against being targeted.
*Research carried out between January 2016 and August 2017