Dangers of Social Media: Are We Sharing Too Much?

An old childhood photo, a meal you had at a fancy restaurant, your pumpkin spiced latte, a panoramic view of the coast…

Sharing photos of your life on social media can generate comments, likes, and shares.

A new car, an expensive watch you got for your birthday, money in a neat fan…

Could sharing photos of your valuables online be generating something other than likes – like ideas about when you’re next not at home or when you’ll next be out wearing that watch?

Social media has brought strangers even closer to strangers and celebrities even closer to ‘ordinary people.’ This has allowed anyone with an account to observe the lives of others and the things they have.

In October, Kim Kardashian West was robbed at gunpoint at a hotel in Paris. Her engagement ring, valued at $4m, was taken along with other items of jewelry. Sometime before it happened, Kardashian West had posted a selfie on Instagram and in the foreground – her engagement ring.

The point is not being made to say ‘she deserved it’ like some people had taken to social media to argue, but it does bring up the topic once again of online safety. When it comes to posting photos of our possessions, what could it mean for us?

“Social media is a great way to share your experiences with friends and family, but unfortunately, there are criminals out there prepared to take advantage of the information you post online,” says Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online.

Security company ADT suggests that 78% of burglars use social media to target properties. As well as checking to see when you’re on holiday and if the house is empty, it could also mean checking to see what items of value you have even when you are in the country.

For example, in February this year, a Florida man was robbed of $280 along with his wallet, credit cards and watch by two men armed with a butcher’s knife. The article reported that the two men knew about the money after the victim had posted a photo of it all on his Snapchat account. The article also reported that the victim knew one of the men through mutual friends and had met at a gathering several months previous.

In January, it was reported that producer DJ Khaled had flashed his credit card during a ‘motivational’ video he posted online. Within moments, the music artist was robbed of around $80,000 after viewers of the video could clearly see his card details.

To a certain extent, it could be said that we should not feel restricted on what we post on our social media. However, some steps should be taken into consideration.

“You wouldn’t just walk down the street waving your prized possessions around under anyone’s nose, so you should be careful not to do this online either,” says Neate.

If thieves are using social media to search out potential people and places to target, hints about your home address and personal details should be kept away from the camera; important documents and credit card details should be blurred out.

And there is nothing to say you shouldn’t be pleased about your new watch or necklace you’ve gotten for your birthday, but bear in mind that posting a photo of it online could tempt strangers into what other expensive items you may have in your home.

It also comes down to who is able to view your social media accounts. Leaving everything on a public setting, as everyone already knows, will mean that not only are your friends looking at what you have and when you are away from home, strangers are seeing this too.

Neate explains: “You should regularly check your privacy setting across your social media accounts. All it takes is for this information to fall into the wrong hands, and especially if a criminal is able to put this together with other personal account information – say a status saying you’re on holiday or your address – then you’re making their job very easy for them.”

It is never too late to set your accounts to private so that only your friends can view your posts. Also, it could be worth going through that friend’s list to make sure you haven’t friended anyone in the past who you definitely don’t know.

In conclusion, what we post online; whether it’s that stunning photo of a hot beverage or a new Tiffany’s necklace, we need to remember who is able to see it and whether we trust those who we let into our online lives.