The Alarming Social Media Travel Trend

Security and privacy experts have cautioned people for quite some time about being too “braggy” on social media, indicating that certain posts can come back to haunt you.

From showing off things like cars and luxury items to jewelry and cash, people like to spread the news of their good fortune, often without thinking of the consequences.

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to envision someone breaking into your home when you post vacation photos while you’re at the beach, and that very behavior has been warned about for a long time. It’s even become a pop culture joke, with social media users saying things like, “Sure I’m in Paris, but my brother is house sitting… don’t bother coming over!” But the new trend of people actually posting photos of their boarding passes, passports, and other key travel documents is actually far more dangerous than possibly inviting a thief to your address.

Boarding passes contain a short security code, which basically serves as a temporary password on your ticket. Airlines issue these to compartmentalize your information. When the barcode or QR code on your ticket (or on your smartphone’s screen) is scanned, some pieces of your personal data may pop up there as well like a frequent flyer number, passport number or date of birth.

It takes no effort for someone with the right know-how to read the information from your posted picture, log into your account, and wreak havoc. Some possibilities include taking ownership of your ticket, printing themselves a new boarding pass, changing your passport number in the account to reflect someone else’s identity, accessing your frequent flier miles, and even purchasing new tickets for themselves on your dime.

Yet, this behavior is inexplicably common. According to one source, there were 92,000 search results on photo sharing social media site Instagram that contained the hashtag “#boardingpass.” These include everything from a photo of a smiling person clutching the small piece of paper to photos that are actually fully zoomed in so the complete information is available.

All the experts can safely tell you is that this behavior is awfully close to throwing your identity out there for the internet to use. Take the safer route and wait to post a picture until you have something neat to share from your trip.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

Read next: Mobile Wallets Aren’t the Wave of the Future…Yet.

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