Police and home security companies are encouraging travellers to protect their homes and prized possessions this March break, especially by curbing their online behaviour.
The Weiser Lock Company is warning people to be cautious of what photos and information they share on social media while away on vacation.
Steve Kolobraric, the marketing manager for the Weiser Lock Company, said people often blur the lines between having harmless fun online and putting themselves or their property in serious danger.
'All notions of privacy are thrown out the window with social media.' - Steve Kolobraric, Weiser Lock Company
"All notions of privacy are thrown out the window with social media. It’s you and all your 500 closest friends," Kolobraric said.
"People often forget that a simple status update about their trip can act as a feeding frenzy for thieves, and can actually create a vulnerable and dangerous situation.”
Some people share travel plans before they even leave. Others share photos from the airport, airplane or near landmarks.
"As soon as they go on vacation, they post these great pictures. The scary thing about that is, if you’ve got a few hundred people on Facebook or Twitter and you don’t have your privacy settings up to date, it can really get you in trouble," Kolobraric said.
"A lot of people don’t understand the privacy settings built in these programs," he said. "It’s kind of written in lawyer lingo that no one really understands. You really have to do some research about this stuff."
Most social media sites and cellphone apps come with default privacy levels, but they can be changed.
Kolobraric said there is "no good reason" to allow apps to access your GPS location, "unless it’s part of your job."
"They’re all trying to source the GPS location of where you are. It’s posting to everyone," Kolobraric said. He added that parents who travel without their kids should monitor their social media activity from afar.
"You have to be careful your kids aren’t tweeting out messages like ‘Hey, my parents are gone all weekend and the house is [all] to myself,'" Kolobraric said. "Gone are the days where they were picking up the phone and telling friends ‘Hey, my parents are gone, come on over.’ Now they’re telling everyone."
Weiser has some tips for social media users:
- Don’t update any statuses or tweet the dates that you are going away.
- Be careful when using the “check-in” feature on sites and apps like Facebook and Four Square.
- Don’t post about broken doors, malfunctioning windows or broken security systems.
- Don’t post photos of new, high-priced items in your home.
- Monitor what your children are posting when you're gone.
- Do post updates or tweets about new security system and locks just installed.
The Chatham-Kent Police Service this week issued its own list of safety tips.
Most revolve around physical features of your home and activity there. The police suggest travellers:
- Inform a neighbour or family member of departure and return dates.
- Cancel mail or ask someone to pick it up.
- Arrange to have someone clear your driveway if it snows.
- Use timers to activate lights at various intervals.
- Ensure that all windows and doors are locked.