It can be so much fun to rub your beachside vacation in the face of co-workers still tied to their desks or to show off your fancy, new big-screen TV to all your followers, but this kind of sharing can do more than turn your friends and colleagues green with envy. Posting details about your life on social media can make you the target of a burglar. Even though it’s tempting to showcase our excitement via Tweets and status updates, it might be worth containing our enthusiasm if it can keep our belongings and loved ones safe.
In a world where an intimate peek into our lives is just an upload away, it can be difficult to know where to draw the line and when social media updates cross the line into dangerous territory. Most of us know that we have to keep personal information like social security numbers off the Internet, but we don’t usually think beyond identity theft when considering our social media safety. But savvy burglars are scouring the net for seemingly innocent posts about vacations or new purchases to help them identify potential victims.
That Facebook post about arriving on the white sands of Maui is an all-points bulletin that your home is currently unoccupied. These days, criminals are more sophisticated and they’re using every bit of technology they can to help them plan and carry out their nefarious deeds. A survey of former burglars revealed that more than 75% of those surveyed believe that thieves are using social media to determine easy targets.
Some of the riskiest social media behaviors include “checking in” at events and locations, posting vacation pics and bragging about expensive purchases. And it’s not just your own social media activities that need to be monitored – if you have teenagers or roommates their updates can also tip off the bad guys. So what can we do to decrease the risk without completely dropping out of cyberspace? Here are three key things to remember to keep crooks from targeting you because you just updated your status.
1. Wait to Show-and-Tell
We love to broadcast that gorgeous beach sunset or give a shout out to the amazing Broadway show we just watched, but your enthusiasm for your vacation won’t be damages by showing some self-control. Go ahead and capture all those awesome photos and pithy comments and post a vacation retrospective once you return home. Your friends and family will still be able to enjoy your sharing and you won’t have to worry about coming home to a house that was raided by a social media stalking criminal.
2. Make It Private
Privacy settings are there for a reason, and although they are not full-proof, making sure they’re set at high can help keep your information from getting into the wrong hands. Things to take note of are GPS settings that pinpoint your location to make “checking in” or tagging a photo with your locale simple. Make sure to go to your settings and disable those functions, which can sometimes update your whereabouts even without your notice when you send an email or Tweet. Also investigate and utilize the privacy tools of any social media that you use. ConnectSafely.org is an organization devoted to keeping Internet use safe, and has guides to maximize online safety, including tips for GPS Location-Sharing.
3. Go Old School
One of the best parts of social media is being able to share major life events with our loved ones who live far away. Things like buying our first home, getting a new car or finally upgrading our home entertainment system are things we want to share with those in our lives who will be just as excited as we are. However, posting this kind of information can be a calling card for burglars. But that doesn’t mean your only option is sending a packet of photographs via snail mail. You can send pics over email or use video chatting to show off your swanky new digs without increasing your odds of becoming a victim.
Overall, our instant-gratification social media habits make us more vulnerable to becoming targets of robbery. While it may feel frustrating to wait to share our latest adventure, it’s well worth it when the alternative is dealing with the cost, hassle and sense of violation from a burglary.
What risky social media habits do you need to think about changing?
Rebecca has honed her safety and security skills as both a single mom and a college director. Being responsible for the well-being of others helped her learn how to minimize risk and create safe environments. Learn more