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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

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By Chetrice Mosley-Romero

Summer is finally here! It’s time for a vacation for a lot of Hoosiers, wherever that might be.

Whether you’re a family of five, traveling with friends, or it’s just the two of you getting away for the weekend, there’s some steps you can take to protect yourself from being the victim of a cybercrime (or a break-in).

And it starts by not sharing the details of your getaway with everyone on social media while you’re out having fun.

Vacations are one of those things we want to share with our family and friends. Everything from what we’re planning and when we’re leaving to where we’re at and showing them all the fun, we’re having. In that moment, we don’t always realize that those posts can get out to the wrong people, and it tells the world that no one’s at home.

According to the FBI, most burglaries happen between June and August and roughly half of those are committed by someone who knows the victim. A lot of that comes from the fact that close to 40 percent of the people who are on vacation are posting about it before the trip is over.

Of course, as with a lot of things, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself before you leave and there’s a few ways that’ll help you stay safe online during your trip, including:

  • Never Posting Your Upcoming Travel Plans -- As tempting as it may be, the worst thing you can do is post details of any upcoming travel plans. First, you’ll be giving thieves a heads-up as to when you’ll be gone, and second, they could be waiting for you when you arrive on vacation. Only your closest friends and family should know (offline) about your travel plans.
  • Waiting Until You’re Home to Do a ‘Photo Dump’ -- It’s a good idea (once you start sharing some of your memories) to mention the vacation is over and that it’s good to be back home.
  • Disabling Geolocation Tags on Your Posts -- Being less specific and providing less information also makes it a little safer to share (anything not related to your trip) on Instagram or Facebook.
  • Don’t Tag Other People -- If you return from vacation early and your friends or anyone you were traveling with, are still gone, be sure that you don’t tag them in any photos or status updates.
    • Wait until everyone is back home and then tag them (if they want to be tagged).
    • Additionally, enable the Facebook tag review feature if you don’t want to be tagged in photos or want to approve any tag before something is posted.

Even with the best approach, the other reason for being cautious when you’re online involves the fact that there are people, who might be described as a “friend of a friend”; someone you might not know at all or have ever met is the person who’s not SO good and is the one who breaks into your home. Members of law enforcement have reported how this can happen. So much so, that when some would-be burglars have been apprehended, they admitted knowing the person, who was targeted, was on vacation.

If you have a need to share, I get it, as sometimes we need to stay in touch with our family or close friends if we’re traveling, there’s a couple of things you can do. On Instagram, you can create a close friends list, so that whatever you share, is seen only by those you trust. You can also do the same thing on Facebook. The other option is to go offline and create a group text and share your photos and what you’re doing as a way to stay connected. I’ve found, too, that when I get back home, I’m able to create a journal that provides some great vacation memories!

Stay (cyber) safe out there and have fun!