If you’re an Instagram user, you’ll surely be familiar with the endless stream of photos that feature flight tickets, top-of-the-range tech and keys to new cars or houses. You’ve probably taken a few of these images yourself. The world of social media has brought us a seemingly rewarding and very public space to show off how great we’ve got it.
But did you know that in doing so, you could be putting those very possessions at risk? New research conducted by Rias has discovered that the average Instagram user will post five clues to their profile revealing where they live and what they own. With this information in the public domain, it can easily fall into the wrong hands.
When we’re looking for that perfect picture, we rarely consider what’s in the background. Something as innocent as a partial shot of your front door could be used by burglars to identify your home. Throw your daily ‘check ins’ or holiday snaps into the mix; and they could even work out the ideal time to target you.
Are we oversharing?
To find out quite how big the problem is, we teamed up with expert criminologist Dr Tina G. Patel. Together, we analysed the content shared by 244 public Instagram profiles and assessed how vulnerable to crime our candidates were making themselves – whether they know it or not. And the findings were stark.
Across many of the accounts, we found users were sharing evidence of their ‘desirable goods’. These included things like expensive champagne, perfumes, toiletries, designer shoes and bags, phones, and cars – and were usually accompanied by a hashtag describing the item’s luxury status.
These would seem innocent enough, if it wasn’t for the fact many profiles were providing clues as to where these possessions could be found.
The image clues we’re giving to potential burglars
Of the accounts we looked at, 55% provided at least one text or image clue that exposed what they own and where they keep it. Just over a third (36%) of the users provided direct details about where they live, and men were much more likely to fall into this trap than women.
The ten photo clues most commonly posted to our Instagram profiles are:
- A partial image of the house
- Details of the house’s general area revealed in the location tag
- Photos that feature an identifiable street, either as their focus or in the background
- A full image of a popular and identifiable site in the house’s general area
- A photo that reveals details of the house in the background
- An image that exposes details about a place of work or socialisation
- A photo that partly reveals a car’s registration number
- A photo that partly shows personal details and addresses contained on a letter or envelope
- A photo that partly reveals information shown on a passport or boarding card
- Live travel and holiday posts, often with location tags and resort details
The result of this is that it took an average of just 335 clicks through a public Instagram profile to access concrete evidence about where the user lived. This could take a would-be burglar as little as 15 minutes, a healthy use of their time in return for £1000’s worth of your goods.
How to keep yourself safe on social media:
When it comes to what not to post, Dr Tina G. Patel is clear;
“Don’t post – both images and location tags – that give details about holidays, of new cars with registration plates showing, of your front door, or any letters, documents or envelopes containing personal data. More generally, discretion is key. This means not showing off desirable goods if possible”.
Help keep your home and possessions safe this Christmas by limiting the sharing to presents and cheer. And if you are tempted to post online, always make sure you’re not giving too much away.
Even if the worst should happen, the value of your possessions will be protected when you choose Rias contents insurance >.