You know you've been there; I know I have. You are stuck at work or at home for the holidays, scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, and it seems all your friends are on exotic trips posting annoying photos of themselves at some wonderfully idyllic location… Sigh. I had to unfriend a former colleague who almost daily posted photos of herself in some moonlit paradise. You think next holiday that will be me posing for pictures in some fabulous place.
Social media is often the fastest and easiest way to communicate—that is make your friends jealous—when you vacation. But hitting “submit” on that post it is not always the safest thing to do, warns the FBI. Because, in essence, you are telling people where you are—and are not—and could be giving criminals a huge advantage.
Here are just a few of the ways you are making yourself, and your family, vulnerable, the FBI says:
- Burglars now know that your home is an easier target.
- You and family members may become more susceptible to virtual kidnapping scams. The bad guy knows you are traveling in whatever country. He calls your mom, convinces her you have been taken hostage, and demands money. She can't get ahold of you because you are busy skiing, and she ends up paying the ransom while fearing for your life.
- Fraudsters can use your flight information or other details to launch a phishing attack against you. You receive an e-mail or text from what you think is your airline... only to find out later that you have now downloaded malware or revealed personal information that can be used for identity theft.
But there are measures you can take to be secure and to safeguard your personal information. The FBI advises the following:
- Limit your exposure on social media. This is hard because, of course, you want all your acquaintances, and especially your frenemies, to know what a fantastic time you are having. Still, you must check your social media account privacy settings to make sure you are using the most secure options available. Only let selected friends view your account.
- Resist the urge for more followers and friends of friends and only accept those people you know face-to-face as friends.
- Don't post pictures on your feeds until you return home.
- Don't post information about your flights, hotel reservations, or specific activities that you are doing. Likewise, do not “check in” from any of these locations.
- Just unplug and enjoy. There will be plenty of time to make your friends green with envy after you return.
If you have been victimized by an online scam, report your suspicious contacts to the FBI. You can file an online report at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your FBI local office.