Next time you log into your favorite social media site, take a minute to consider if your activities online are placing your home security in danger. Are you aware how social media invites burglars? If not, you may unknowingly be opening a virtual window for criminals to take advantage of your shared information.
As per the experts from DevconHomeSecurity.com, today’s tech-savvy thieves are following your comments, photos and other status updates to find unsuspecting homes to target for criminal activity. We will also reveal what you can do to reduce the chances that your online communication leads to an offline footprint to the front door of your house.
The changing face of the modern burglar
When we think about the movements of the common burglar, we very often conjure up images of shady looking characters who stalk neighborhood streets while searching for empty houses.
Whilst this description is not completely outdated, many house thieves today are running their trade in a more high-tech manner, enjoying the comfort of their own home while using online social media sites to select potential victims. According to online site Social Media Today, more than 78 per cent of burglars admit to using sites like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare to identify their current targets.
Your new friend may be your new burglar
A common and known method used by criminals to gain access to your details is by becoming your online ‘friend’. It is all too common, a scenario in which people accept friend requests from others who are strangers to them. Many people like to ‘collect’ as many friends as possible to the point where they have more than 500 ‘friends’ attached their profiles. In reality, only a handful of those friends are known to them. If this is the status of your or your children’s profile, you may be harboring online thieves with fake personas and identities that have been stolen.
These criminals now have access not only to your profile information, but also to hundreds of other new profiles that they can also target. Beware also of receiving contact from strangers who claim to like your photo and wish to get to know you better. The more they know about you, the greater a target you become for burglary. If you belong to online groups ‘looking’ for something, like a flat mate for instance, be wary also of those making contact on first impression.
Burglars appreciate knowing your location
Whether heading off for vacation, having coffee with a friend or going to the doctor, by posting your movements online you are letting those in the modern world know exactly when you will be away from home.
You are also exposing the home security of others when you mention the names of those who are with you. Given that social media is viewed primarily as a fun way to spend time and share activities with friends, your location details, food photos, shopping ventures and vacation snaps not only serve to entertain your friends, but also provide real-time details of your whereabouts and how far away you are from your home.
For criminals in your immediate location, this information is fodder for those with an appetite for stealing, and it takes little encouragement for them to take a quick journey to your house to attempt to do a shopping venture of their own.
Your account status is your burglar’s best friend
Thieves tend to be opportunists, however, they also know that a successful robbery depends on them having as much detail as possible about you and your home prior to conducting the burglary.
Your social profile and online activities are goldmines of knowledge for thieves planning their next theft.
The more liberal you are with your personal information, the easier it is for a burglar to establish a target profile about you. Not only can they identify access points to your home, they can establish where and when you will be at work, if you live alone, when you are likely to attend an event, and what your latest valuable purchases are that you have willingly shared with your online world.
If you have shared your links to other social media sites, thieves will access those to gain additional information about you and, if they are older sites that you no longer maintain, they will use them to determine what has changed in your life since then, as well as any sensitive information that you may have forgotten that you posted.
When social media and online technology come together
When burglars have established all of the personal information and movement patterns that they need about you from your social media activities, they then combine this knowledge with technology that is available at the click of a link to determine the viability of targeting your property.
After making their selection to target you, they will access the Street View facility in Google Maps to locate your house so that they can quickly recognize it in the final step of their planned and calculated crime against your property.
Not only will they identify the look of your house, they will use this online facility to examine your neighborhood, including the location of surrounding houses, the hiding potential at your property, and the ease of access to side windows and backyard areas that are affected by fences and pets.
What you can do to reduce your social footprint
It’s a sign of the times that we have to think about what it is that we should post about ourselves online.
Following is a list of ways in which you can reduce the free flow of information about your personal details to the unwelcome elements that use social media to prey on unsuspecting users;
- Be careful who you accept as a friend
- Be aware who your family members have as a friends
- Ensure that your privacy settings are restricted to access only for immediate friends
- Learn how to turn off automatic GPS tracking from the device in which you upload photos and images
- Find out if your smartphone social apps have any ‘hands-free’ check-in features activated
- Hold your online plans for discussions offline
- Keep vacation announcements and photos until you have returned home
- Refrain from using services like Foursquare that are location-based and which update your destinations online
You can be social and secure
Now is an opportune time to revisit the earlier question; Are you aware how social media invites burglars?
By following the information provided here, you are now much more aware of how your activities inside your social media accounts makes you vulnerable to potential burglars.
Maintaining your privacy, learning how your smartphone apps interact and restricting access to your known friends is paramount to reducing the likelihood that your details will fall into unsavory hands.
Have fun with your online social activities, but do so without revealing everything about yourself to those who really don’t need to know.