Location-based services are one of the hottest trends in social networking right now, but before getting caught up in this new rage, make sure you don’t jeopardize your safety by oversharing.

Collecting badges and earning the right to claim the title of “mayor” of a location can be heady and even addicting experiences for people who routinely and habitually “check in” to let their friends – and potentially the rest of the world – know where they are and what they are up to on sites like Foursquare. However, there can often be dangerous ramifications for sharing all of your comings and goings with everyone who has access to the Internet.

What is Foursquare?

Foursquare, which is a social networking application accessible via laptops and mobile devices, allows users to gain badges and titles based on the amount of points collected by checking in at various locations. The more check ins, the more points awarded to a player and an avid Foursquare user can earn the distinction of being the “mayor” of a location ranging from a bar to the user’s own home, by stacking up the most check ins at that location. The check in information is shared with other Foursquare players and can be linked into Facebook and Twitter. Foursquare check ins not only give the name of the place a player has checked into, it also gives the address.

What can “checking in” reveal about yourself?
While sharing your whereabouts with friends and family is a great way to stay connected and to potentially bump into someone who you otherwise might not have much face time with, making your location publicly available can leave you vulnerable to would-be criminals. Regular check ins on Foursquare potentially invites creeps and stalkers to follow you not only in Cyberville, but also in real life and professional burglars are using social media, and particularly Foursquare, to pick a homes to invade because it allows them to know exactly when nobody is home.

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How can you protect yourself?
Obviously letting strangers know you are away from your home and for how long can make you susceptible to being burglarized so if you are into geotagging, help reduce your chance of being a victim of crime by only sharing your information with people who you don’t mind knowing your whereabouts. To further minimize your likelihood of advertising your location to criminals, don’t sync Foursquare to your Facebook and Twitter accounts, as these social networking sites are publicly searchable and criminals can easily find out who’s home and who’s not. And, no matter what you’re sharing online, SafeWise recommends having a home security system to help protect your home and everything in it.

What do you do to use social media and stay safe online?

Written by Elli Bishop

Elli is a safety and security expert for the Safewise team. In her free time, she enjoys playing tennis, practicing yoga, and spending time with friends and family. Learn more

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