Summer is the time when most U.S. citizens choose to travel abroad especially for family vacations and for students participating in international study programs. Unfortunately, with the increase in summer travel there is also an increase in home burglaries and scams.  According to the FBI, burglary rates overall increase around 10 percent in the summer months of July and August.  Furthermore, many cyber thieves troll social networks for personal information that can be used in online fraud scams.

According to a survey by MoneyGram, about one-third of consumers aged 18-49 post details about their vacations on social media before or during their trip.  Sharing summer travel plans can be an invitation for criminals to target family members with the “relative in need scam,” warns MoneyGram.  This scam typically targets family   friends of individuals who are traveling on vacation, asking for their help solve a crisis or catastrophe the traveler is going through.  The scammer asks for money to be sent immediately, through a money transfer.

Share Your Vacation Experience…With Limited Details

With cyber thieves trolling social network sites as a way to extract sensitive information about their victims, it’s more important than ever to be aware of your account settings in the social media channels that you are active in.  Think first before you tweet it, pin it, or post it.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind when talking about your vacation in social channels:

  • Don’t include details about the dates you will be gone
  • Don’t post your flight information
  • Don’t “check-in” to location-based services (i.e. Foursquare, Facebook Places)
  • Only share photos with people you trust

Know Your Facebook Account Settings

Much of the content that populates your social media profiles is public for the world to see, unless you take the time to adjust your account settings.  Some of the Facebook settings that that you should check out before posting photos or other details about your vacation include:

1.       Who can see my stuff?

By default, your posts are public for all to see.  This option can be changed from the “Privacy Settings and Tools” account setting.  Alternately, you can change the privacy level of your posts using a fairly new feature called the “Audience Selector”.

2.       Who can look me up? 

By default this value is “Everyone”.  Change the setting to Friends or Friends of Friends to limit the number of users who can see the email address and phone number associated with your account.

3.       Custom Lists

Another option is to create custom lists of specific people who are allowed to see your content.  Each time you post, you have the option to select the audience who sees your content.

Protect yourself by being smart about how you are using social media leading up to your summer vacation and while you are on vacation.  While there are precautions that you can take within your social media account settings to ensure that certain elements of your profile remains private, your best bet is to share your vacation photos after you have returned home.