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The consequences of oversharing

In today’s increasingly connected world, social media is becoming a window into our lives. But, are you always aware of who’s looking in? As wealth and privacy struggle to remain synonymous, and as the threat from those who would seek to take advantage increases, should improving your family’s online safety be much more of a priority?

Your child, friend or family member poses for a selfie with their brand-new Rolex, before proudly posting the photo on social media. But not everyone looking at the snap is a friend or even known to the person in the picture.

The importance of being protective of privacy was well-illustrated last year when reality TV star Kim Kardashian fell victim to armed robbery. The thieves tracked her location using social media and press updates, before muscling their way into her hotel room and stealing approximately GBP7.8 million in cash and jewels.

But how does social media make me vulnerable?


Being careless with your privacy can open you and your family up to everything, from cyberbullying and theft to extortion and kidnap. Criminals can use social media geo-tagging, landmarks and research into your typical behaviour or schedule. Even if your profile is private, your device or social media account may store GPS coordinates as metadata and this information could be hacked and used to alert criminals to your travel location and patterns.

Most people don’t realise how much useful information they share on their social media profiles. Off-hand comments or seemingly-safe photos can all help a savvy kidnapper or extortionist build up a picture of your location, by telling them of your favourite restaurant, your workplace and even what your house or car looks like.

Money at the heart


Global exposure of success and lifestyle is making it even easier to identify prosperous individuals or wealthy families. That success is also often listed in databases, such as Prospecting for Gold and the Sunday Times Rich List, and these are being used by criminals to find their targets.

Criminals will research their victim, both online and in real life, for displays of wealth that they can exploit. Suddenly, that proud and happy picture of a shiny new Rolex becomes an advertisement of something to be stolen.

Unfortunately, the frequently sharing of images of high-value items, luxurious homes or 5-star holidays can help to set you out as a target. This is evidenced in the ‘rich kids of Instagram’ trend, whereby young wealthy people like to share images which reflect and announce their wealth. Photos of five-figure receipts, gold member credit cards and champagne baths may seem fun to share on social media but this level of extravagance simply helps to announce levels of wealth to criminals.

In 2014, teenager, Aleem Iqbal’s appetite for oversharing products from his father’s luxury car leasing business – along with his own location – ended up costing the family over GBP500,000. The boasting of self-proclaimed ‘Lord Aleem’ irritated a criminal group so much that they twice tracked him down, setting fire to four top-of-the range vehicles.1

Being careless with your privacy can open you and your family up to everything, from cyberbullying and theft to extortion and kidnap.

Awareness by association


Your friends, family member or acquaintance may also be increasing the risk of crime against you, or themselves by association to you. Even if your loved one’s profile is locked down, the people they know could inadvertently share their details by being less stringent.

Alexa Dell, heiress to the founder of Dell Computer Systems, came forward this year to explain what happened when she carelessly shared picture of her brother, his location and his wealth.2 The image went viral, helping to undo much of the annual GBP1.9 million spend on security services by the pair’s father.3

What can be done to prepare?


Be strict on privacy

Ultimately, maintaining a private life is important. Your family should come together to clearly and honestly discuss what information should be kept private, as well as the consequences if it is not.

Build awareness

From educating yourselves on cybercriminal tactics, to getting travel advice4, it’s important to build awareness so your family can best minimise their risk.

Sensible usage

The chances are no one will want to shut down their social media accounts entirely, so here are some ideas that should help mitigate some of the risks:

  • Turn off geotagging functions on your device and profile
  • Make profiles and posts as private and secure
  • Caution against overly-extravagant or unnecessary displays of wealth
  • Never disclose bank account information or payment card details
  • Be mindful of the little details that can be given away by accident, such as a house number, home security system or car number plate

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This material is issued by HSBC UK Bank plc which is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority in the UK. It has been issued for your information purposes only.

Please note that HSBC does not provide tax or legal advice and clients should seek professional advice from their tax advisor. Any reference to tax is based on our knowledge of the current and proposed tax regime and is subject to change.

In the United Kingdom, this document has been approved for distribution by HSBC UK Bank plc whose Private Banking office is located at 8 Cork Street, London, W1S 3LJ.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, on any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of HSBC UK Bank plc. Copyright© HSBC Private Banking 2022. 

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