There is no question that social media plays a central role in life in the UK today. According to a report from communications regulator Ofcom last year, a whopping 76% of adults have a social media profile now, while there has been significant growth in older people using these sites.
However, while the benefits of being able to connect with friends and family across the world are leading so many of us to use these sites, the way that we use them could be causing issues for our finances.
Protect your personal details
One of the big hazards of social media is that many of us share far too much personal information on there. Spend a little time on someone’s profile and you may be able to find out all sorts of key details about them, from their birthday to their address, from their mother’s maiden name to the names of their kids and pets (which are often used as passwords for online accounts).
That’s not necessarily a problem if you only add close friends or have your account set to private, which restricts how much of your profile non-friends can see.
But if you don’t have those settings turned on, or add everybody who sends you a request to connect whether you know them or not, you are putting yourself and your home in danger.
Keep the holiday snaps to yourself
If you are heading off somewhere sunny, of course you will be excited, and it’s natural to want to share that excitement with your friends and family. Perhaps you want to ‘check in’ at the airport, or stick up some holiday snaps during your trip - the days of having to wait to get the pics developed until a week or so after you get home from your holiday are long gone, after all.
But it’s a good idea to hold off on sharing too much information about your trip until after you’ve got back. There have been a host of cases where thieves have spotted posts on social media about people popping off on their holidays and used that as an opportunity to break in. In fact, former England football team captain John Terry was a victim of burglary after sharing a photo on Instagram while he was on a skiing holiday.
This could cause problems with your insurance too. Insurers expect you to take reasonable care over your home security, and advertising that you are away from the property for an extended period doesn’t meet that criteria.
The Financial Ombudsman Service, which acts as a complaints arbiter, has warned that insurance companies may be within their rights to reduce payouts or refuse them altogether if claimants have shared too many details online.
All posts could land you in trouble
Even if you post something on social media that has nothing to do with your holiday while you’re overseas, that could be a mistake.
If you have location-tracking turned on, then when you make a post it may mention where you are posting from. And if that shows up as being somewhere more exotic than your usual location, then it could catch the eye of a wily thief.
It’s a similar story with social fitness apps like Strava, which you can use to track your runs or cycling trips and share with your friends. It’s all too easy for somebody to spot that you’re going for a jog somewhere far from home and take advantage by breaking in.
Avid social media users are getting caught out in other ways. This includes ghost broking, where people are duped into buying car insurance through adverts on sites like Facebook and Instagram. The scammers promise to organise much cheaper policies than you could find on your own.
The scammers then forge insurance documents, lie about your details in order to reduce the cost of a policy, or take out a policy and then cancel it quickly, pocketing the refund.
In all cases, victims are then left driving around with either an invalid policy or no cover at all, with the fraud often only discovered when they need to make a claim or are stopped by the police.
According to fraud experts Action Fraud, ghost broking is on the rise, with 850 cases reported in the last three years. The costs of being caught out are steep too, with total losses of more than £630,000.
Brokers are indeed very helpful in helping to find insurance appropriate to your needs, but it’s important that you check that they are legitimate beforehand.