Half the fun of taking a trip is snapping the perfect envy-worthy Instagram photo to show friends and family back home. But posting it at the wrong time can put travelers and their families at risk.
"Social media is a big part of traveling and people are excited to share, but you do need to be vigilant about what you share," said Julie Hall, public relations manager of AAA.
Something as simple as posting a shot of that gorgeous waterfall on a hike in Oahu can signal to a potential thief that your home in Wyoming is currently vacant and an easy target. Even if privacy settings allow sharing only with friends to see them, it's best to wait until returning home to post.
The Pre-Travel List
Check social media privacy settings and disable the location setting. "If you're sharing that you're out of town, it puts your home at risk. You just leave yourself vulnerable," Hall said.
Ask friends and traveling companions to avoid tagging you in photos.
Change weak passwords. Sensitive information such as passwords are more secure on a home network. Don't change them during travel. Public wifi at hotels and restaurants are less secure and put sensitive information at risk. Set up strong authentication options for logging into social media sites, said Joseph Steinberg, cyber expert and SecureMySocial CEO.
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Set up a remote wipe for laptops and smart phones. If those items are stolen, information can be deleted by the owner from another device. On an Apple device, remote wiping is available through the Find My Phone option on iCloud, as long as Find My Phone is enabled before the device goes missing. Android devices offer the option under Google Settings. Choose Security, then Android Device Manager to enable remote lock and erase. Some security software, such as Avast Anti-Theft or ESET Mobile Security and Antivirus, include the option with their service.
Pack your own charging cable. Most people do this but it's always a good point to keep in mind. Borrowing cables and connecting with other people's computers is a good way to spread malware, according to Steinberg.
Tips to Consider During Travel
Don't post flight information. Sensitive data such as flight information or an image of a boarding pass can give cyber criminals enough material to scam your friends and colleagues into giving up your passwords, or even fake your kidnapping in exchange for a ransom. "That might sound a little farfetched, but this type of virtual kidnapping has reached epidemic levels in certain areas," Steinburg said.
Don't post specific travel plans. Likewise, keep specific meet-ups off social media—send a text or a private message instead.
Jot down updates and descriptions to post later. Nationwide recommends using a social media management website to write posts and tweets and schedule them to post once you return home or blog about the experiences and publish later.