FBI Portland
Beth Anne Steele
(503) 460-8099
November 21, 2017

FBI Tech Tuesday: Building a Digital Defense Against the Dangers of Using Social Media While Traveling

Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. This week: building a digital defense against the dangers of using social media while traveling.

You know you've been there. You are scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, and your friends are posting annoying photos of themselves at some beautifully exotic beach... or mountain climbing in some gorgeous remote location. Some day... you think... you will be the one to show off your family photo from the happiest place on earth. Or, maybe, a shot of yourself lounging on a sailboat in the Caribbean.

Social media is often the fastest and easiest way to communicate—that is make your friends jealous—when you are away. But hitting “submit” on that post it is not always the safest way to go.

By telling people where you are—and are not—you are giving criminals a huge advantage. Here are just some of the ways you are making yourself, and your family, vulnerable:

  • Burglars now know that your home is an easier target.
  • Family members may become more susceptible to virtual kidnapping scams. The bad guy knows you are traveling in whatever country. He calls your mom, convinces her you have been taken hostage, and demands money. She can't get ahold of you because you are busy parasailing, and she ends up paying the ransom while fearing for your life.
  • Fraudsters can use your flight info or other details to launch a “phishing” attack on you. You receive an e-mail or text from your supposed airline about your flight... only to find out later that you have now downloaded malware or given out more personal info that can be used for identity theft.

So what to do?

  • Check your social media account privacy settings to make sure you are using the most secure options available. Only let chosen friends view your account.
  • Resist the urge for more followers, and only accept those people you know face-to-face as friends.
  • Don't post pictures on your feeds until you return home.
  • Don't post information about your flights, hotel reservations, or specific activities that you are doing. Likewise, do not “check in” from any of these locations.
  • Finally, take this time to just unplug and enjoy. There will be plenty of opportunities to make your friends jealous after you return.

If you have been victimized by an online scam, report your suspicious contacts to the FBI. You can file an online report at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your FBI local office.