James Long, managing director at high net worth claims specialist Criterion, explains how to limit social media risks for HNW claims

Who doesn’t like showing off presents to friends and family? A wristwatch for Christmas? A piece of fine art received on a birthday? Anniversary cufflinks? Even when we self-gift, we want to share news of our recently purchased goodies with others.

Often, we turn to social media to share expensive buys with our extended friends and family. However, we could be sharing our new treasures inadvertently with thieves too. And, by leaving geolocation switched on our smartphones, we’re not only showing everyone that we’ve just acquired something valuable, but also where they can come and steal it from.

Posting on social media when on holiday

Thinking of jetting off for some winter sun or hitting the ski slopes? Taking holiday snaps while away might do the trick in making your friends green with envy. It might also alert thieves that your home may be left empty.

Research by soft furnishings company Hillary’s showed that one in-12 Brits have been burgled after posting to social media. Around four-fifths (81%) of respondents boasted about going on holiday via social media platforms, 51% showed off their expensive purchases online and 52% tag their locations - this increased to 79% when respondents were on holiday.

In 2017, the home of former England captain John Terry was deliberately targeted by burglars after he posted pictures to Instagram of him and his family skiing in the French Alps.

Thieves robbed his Surrey mansion and ransacked the master bedroom. They stole around £350,000 worth of jewellery and other personal possessions.

In the court case following the arrest of the burglars, the judge summed up saying: “It might have been a mistake to post a family photograph on social media to show he was away on holiday. As a result, his home was deliberately targeted.”

It can be a double-whammy for burgled homeowners. Along with returning home to find property damaged and stolen, they may find their insurance claim void as well.

Some policies require customers to take ‘reasonable care’ in keeping their property safe and to prevent accidents, loss or damage. Promoting your absence from home or sharing your name and address online might potentially place you in breach of these conditions.

Millennials as HNWIs

We often think of millennials as being mere kids. But the oldest in this age grouping will be 39 this year. The aggregated net worth of global millennials is forecast to top $24 trillion in 2020, according to Deloitte data. Furthermore, millennials are about to enter their prime earning years, resulting in a meaningful increase in their liquid assets.

This generation has lived virtually all their lives online. In doing so, many have left a digital vapour trail of past behaviour and purchases in their wake.

Magazines like Hello would often share home photo shoots with fame-hungry high net worth individuals (HNWIs) or celebrity clients, carefully orchestrated by experienced magazine creatives and celebrity PR minders. They were careful about what was shown in each image. They took care to shield the exact home address or to blur family members in photo frames within the shot.

Today, we’re all creative directors. Thanks to smartphones, we’re now able to generate studio-quality content and publish it at scale - sharing with our friends, family and anyone else via social media. But while we have the technology, we might all benefit from remembering a few rules to protect ourselves online.

How to protect yourself on social media:

  1. Lock your profile using privacy settings, including who can see what your friends are sharing or liking.
  2. Switch off the geolocation on apps.
  3. Remove followers you do not trust on Facebook or Instagram.
  4. Google your name to understand if any personal information shows up.
  5. Remove personal details like your home address from your profile pages.
  6. Consider holding off sharing your holiday snaps until you return home.
  7. Look at the whole photo before uploading. What else is in the shot? Are you giving away your exact location by distinguishing background landmarks? Are you displaying objects you would rather keep private?