Going away for Christmas?
This week my Facebook feed is full of beautifully decorated festive trees, proudly displayed with a mass of enticing gifts stacked below, shiny paper with ribbons fluttering. Next week it will be full of friends in bikinis sunning themselves in an end of year break before the onslaught of turkey, prosecco and figgy pudding (whatever!) adds a couple of inches to their waistlines.
Wrapped presents under a tree… The homeowners on a beach… Nice, but… What about the messages these events send to the unscrupulous members of society who prey on social media as a means to determine which houses to rob?
I always advise people not to post holiday snaps until they’ve returned to the UK. But everyone does it. I’m a culprit myself – there’s not always a “practice what you preach” culture here, and my mum brought me up on the ideology of “do as I say, not as I do.”
I’m better than I was – or maybe it’s just that I’ve become a more private person in the past few years. So my long weekend in Malaga consisted of just a few snaps to promote a fabulous lobster paella and a wonderful food tour on TripAdvisor, and a sunset catamaran cruise. Even so, my home was not empty while I was abroad; I share it with two adults and a psychotic ragdoll cat.
Malaga was amazing, by the way! What I’d previously thought of as an airport town to quickly pass through on my way to elsewhere, turned out to be a stunning medieval city of cobbled streets lined with orange trees. The thousand-year-old castle overlooks a harbour edged with cafés and restaurants; the Moorish architecture throughout the old town is stunning and the array of galleries and museums is outstanding.
Picasso’s birthplace is a delight to visit, and the more modern son of the city – Antonio Banderas – is, apparently, ploughing in capital to regenerate the seedier side by the docks with a new theatre and arts quarter. We missed him turning on the Christmas lights but caught his support act – a Spanish X-factor winner who’s set to represent his country in next year’s Eurovision song contest. (Something we may or may no longer be allowed to use as a showcase for embarrassing the UK even further, if that’s ever possible.)
But back to my main concern. An interesting article appeared in the Telegraph earlier this year that claimed holidaymakers could invalidate their home insurance if they post photos on social media whilst on holiday. This means that burglaries may not be covered because the homeowner has advertised that their home is empty. It makes sense – we should all take responsibility for protecting our assets. But do we remember this, after the first jug of daiquiri?
Insurance companies can – and apparently do – reject claims based on a clause about taking ‘reasonable care’ to keep your property safe. And they can judge a holiday photo shared on social media as failure to do that, meaning the policy is breached and the insurance becomes invalid.
The Telegraph reported that, “According to research by Admiral insurers, one in 20 of the burglaries reported to their claims team happened while the homeowner was holiday, while another survey by interiors firm Hillarys found that one in 12 Britons had been burgled after posting their location abroad on social media.”
A consumer affairs expert at MoneySupermarket was quoted as saying said social media posts could impact your policy in the same way as leaving your windows open might. By contrast, Aviva and Directline both said that posting holiday photos wouldn’t invalidate a policy, and they don’t necessarily look at holiday social media posts when assessing claims.
That article also quotes a couple of celebrities who’d been burgled after posting about their fabulous holidays on social media. I’m lucky enough to mix in some interesting crowds through my work, and I respect their privacy. So when I randomly met an actor from a major TV show in a trattoria in Florence this summer, I didn’t immediately share the photo on Instagram. (When I say met, I mean pounced on when he popped outside for a quick fag! I would never disturb someone at their table.) Also, I asked his permission before plastering him all over social media – after all, he may have been trying to go incognito in Italia…
So this Christmas, don’t make life easy for criminals looking for soft targets. These seven simple steps to safeguarding your social media may also help you keep your home safe.
- Make sure your privacy settings are secure – a photo that you share with friends could be reshared or liked by people with less stringent safeguards than you.
- Remove people you don’t know or trust from your Facebook friends list.
- Turn off location services.
- Review the personal details you share on your profile pages.
- Log out of your accounts when you’re finished.
- Protect your phone – password, fingertip or facial recognition, whatever you use, be especially vigilant whilst away.
- And finally, as you’ve probably guessed – keep your photos off social media until you get home.
Whether you’re spending the holidays at home or away – have a fantastic time!
(My little disclaimer: Don’t take out insurance with the companies named above based solely on this blog. Things change, policies get updated and newspaper reporting is not necessarily correct insurance company policy. If you’re seeking holiday insurance, do your research. And pack suncream – always worth mentioning…)