Avoid Break-ins by Being Cautious on Social Media

masked man breaking into a home

It’s a naïve tendency, really. People assume that because they’re happy and getting ready to experience something wonderful and new that it’s always best to tell anyone and everyone who will listen. This includes going on vacation.

You post to your Facebook about your intent to leave. You post “updates” of when you leave the house; you are en route to your airplane. Your kids snap some silly pictures at the airport for Instagram, or post a public “see you later!” update on their Facebook. Maybe you even share with your friends how long you’ll be gone (and therefore, how long your home will be empty).

This form of over-sharing exposes you to more than the eye-rolling of your friends and family. It can also lead to a break-in.

When “TMI” Leads to Crime
social media icons on phoneA burglary ring was busted in 2010 that had managed more than 50 break-ins in the state of New Hampshire, stealing at least $100,000 worth of valuables. How did they do it? The group would sweep Facebook for profiles that shared the location of the user. The thieves would then strike when the hapless victims were away from home.

Sometimes you don’t even have to leave on vacation to be victimized. Keri McMullen simply posted a Facebook status that she was headed to a concert; when she got back, over $11,000 worth of property was missing. Luckily, McMullen had installed surveillance cameras. By posting the images to the very same Facebook account, she learned the “friends” responsible had gone to high school with her. Another reason to think twice about who you reconnect with!

No matter how the TMI comes about, whether it’s you mindlessly tweeting that you’re out of town or your son or daughter’s account being set to share their status update location automatically, that information is getting out there. Protect yourself and your family by being sure your social media accounts can’t share your location and thinking twice before you tell where you are. You may give just enough of a hint that leads to a break-in.

Not Everyone on Your Friends List May Be a Friend
McMullen learned the hard way that not everyone who you add as a contact is necessarily a friend. Some people add friends looking for vulnerabilities that they can use to rob you. This includes your name and address, your work hours, the route you take to get to and from work, or whether or not you use public transportation. And of course, if you intend to go on vacation or be out of the house for days at a time.

Because the new age of social media has made people more social than ever, “friending” others leads to the misguided belief that they can be trusted. This isn’t always true. It’s best to privatize your accounts as much as possible and make use of custom privacy settings to ensure that you have a small circle of trustworthy friends.

Some pride themselves in having thousands of online friends to share their lives with… until a break-in occurs. Then it’s a matter of sorting through thousands of individuals to figure out who may have done it—assuming the guilty party or parties are still on your friends list. With so many names to keep track of, it’s easy to friend you just long enough to rob you, and then disappear into an online crowd of strangers. Don’t let this happen to you; be sensible about what you share online.

Adrienne is a freelance writer and designer interested in social media and its implications in the modern world. To read more of her work, visit her personal design blog.

Images courtesy of Jason Howie and Eastlake Times via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

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