Social media addiction gives holiday thieves the upper hand

New Year the time to get the house in order

Australians are being urged to tighten their online privacy habits in the lead up to the Australia Day long weekend or risk leaving themselves exposed to opportunistic thieves scouring social media networks for vulnerable targets, according to new research from GIO.

GIO's home security study¹ shows more than a third (34%) of people update their social media accounts with upcoming holiday plans. Half of all people surveyed said they posted updates while away on holidays with the majority ‘checking in' to specific destinations with and another third (32%) uploading photos of their recent Christmas and New Year spoils.

Despite sharing personal information, a third (30%) of people said they do not personally know everyone on their network. One in seven (14%) admitted their updates are open to the whole social media community. In addition:

  • One in five people checks their privacy settings less than once a year or not at all.
  • One in 10 people checks their privacy settings less than every six months but at least once a year.
  • One in 10 people don't know the privacy status of their accounts.

GIO spokesman, Stephen Bell, said residents should think twice before sharing their personal information online.

"Australians are among the world's biggest consumers of social media. We're addicted to our smartphones; we check our social media accounts more than 10 times a day and live in a society where some feel compelled to share our every move and life event online," Mr Bell said.

"The danger is many are neglecting to check their online privacy settings leaving information about your contents and whereabouts accessible to strangers. They can work out you're not at home and sometimes what you've left behind.

"You wouldn't leave your front door unlocked or leave your possessions on display on your front lawn, so why would you not do the same with your online identity?" he said.

Mr Bell said the New Year was traditionally one of the worst times of the year for break-ins.

"The post-Christmas and New Year sales season means gifts and newly purchased gadgets are especially attractive to intruders, with the most commonly stolen items being small, portable and expensive."

Mr Bell said it was important residents regularly check their privacy settings and ensure any new and big tickets items were accounted for in their insurance cover.

"While social media is a great way to share life's milestones with friends and family, it should not come at the expense of your privacy and your home's security. Every precaution should be taken to prevent leaving an online trail of breadcrumbs leading thieves to your door," he said.

"People tend to forget that the financial value of items, such as jewellery, wearable technology, tablets and other gadgets, accumulates over time and can be quite expensive to replace. More than that, the sentimental value is irreplaceable," he said.

GIO's top tips to secure your privacy, home and contents:

  • Check and update your privacy settings on all of your social media accounts (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.)
  • Get a friend or colleague to try and ‘hack' your privacy and check what information is accessible from your social media accounts.
  • Install an alarm system and make sure you activate it before leaving the house.
  • Make sure you use your door and window locks.
  • Store keys and valuables, such as cash, jewellery and portable electronics, in a secure location and out of sight.
  • If you are heading away, arrange lights and other appliances to run on a timer and ask a trusted neighbour or friend to collect your mail.
  • Ensure your home and contents insurance details are up to date.

1GIO commissioned an independent internet survey of 3,283 Australians, 18 years and over, across a full national sample in 2015. Data was collected in line with ISO 20252 – Market, Social and Opinion Research and has been weighted with current ABS population demographics to ensure any extrapolation of results is representative of age, sex and area.