BY RACHEL CHEESEMAN, FOUNDER OF STREET SMART SELF DEFENSE
Now that everyone has made it safely on the road for summer vacation, I’m sure you can’t wait to start posting as many photos and details of all your adventures to social media. I’ve already begun seeing vacation photos from my friends as well. With that said, I think it’s a good idea for all of us to give our social media accounts a checkup. An estimated 30% of all social media accounts are available for public view. Is yours one of them? If you haven’t gone into your account settings for a while, take a look. Make sure your settings are secure and only “your friends” can view the content of your posts as well as your profile. I have nothing against posting vacation details online, but we all need to be careful about how much information is “too much”.
With the advent of social media accounts, thieves suddenly have a wealth of information about you and your family at their fingertips. Crime trends have evolved into the 21st century, and so should our preventive mindset as well. Although criminals can still obtain sensitive information through the traditional dumpster dive, the ease of “shopping” for their next victim from the comfort of their own living room is much more convenient. It’s also a good idea to take inventory of your “friends list” and pare down to those individuals who are closer to your inner circle. Another way to go about it would be to create a private group so that you can share personal details in a controlled online group setting.
The big issue, aside from securing viewer content, is to avoid social media posts that convey “nobody is home”. For example, don’t say,” Enjoying vacation time with the family. Will see you all back home next Friday”. Statements like these can motivate someone with bad intentions to scope out your residence for valuables, since now they know you are NOT home and they have until Friday! You might as well just put a giant sign in your front yard that says “Gone for vacation. Be back next Friday.” Sound ridiculous? That’s what you just did by posting that same information to social media. If you are going to post about your vacation, it’s best to leave out the extent of who is with you and exactly how long you will be gone. At the very least, it will cast doubt for those with bad intentions about if anyone is really home. “Doubt” can serve as a valuable deterrent to thieves.
Lastly, be careful with those social media quizzes. You know…. the ones that ask, “Which 80s metal band best describes you?” Although they are fun, the problem is many of those are designed to lure you into a portal that collects your email address and other Facebook data so that identity thieves can learn about your interests. By doing so, they can craft emails that appear legit and possibly trick you into giving up personal account information at a later time. It’s best to avoid these quizzes altogether. Social media is a great tool for bringing family and friends closer together. If we pay more attention to our security and content, we’ll all have good experiences and enjoy each other’s adventures!
Rachel Cheeseman is a 2nd degree black belt and has studied the martial arts for the past 28 years. She founded Street Smart Self Defense Academy in Erie, PA 17 years ago to empower women, due to the rape of her sister in her off-campus college apartment. She is a certified instructor for the national full-contact self-defense program called “Model Mugging” and a certified instructor for the MUNIO Self Defense Workshops. Rachel is also a member of and former seminar instructor for the American Women’s Self Defense Association, and she has been inducted into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame, Action Martial Arts Magazine Hall of Honors and the World Karate Union Hall of Fame.