How Social Media Can Put Your Home At Risk To Burglars
Though social media is great for connecting with friends and family, not being incredibly careful about how you use it can put your home security at risk. The way you use your social media accounts may be helping criminals target your home.
It’s Not Just What You Post
When you tell a friend on Facebook about your vacation – you’re not just talking to that friend. A simple “like” of your status update notifies all your friend’s friends that they liked your status, and so on. Eventually, someone you don’t know will figure out you’re going on vacation. Social media is meant for viral activity, and even though your status may not be viral, it could have a much bigger reach than you intend for it to.
Publicly Announcing Your Excitement About Vacation
A simple status update like, “Can’t wait to be at the beach in two days!” alerts the rest of the world to the fact that you will be out of town in 48 hours, giving them time to plan an attack. Unless someone’s going to be there to house sit, this isn’t a good idea. Instead, don’t post anything about your vacation until you’re already home. Feel free to update while you’re away, but make sure your location isn’t posted in the status – and your phone does not add your location to the status. Keep the updates vague, so as not to suggest you are on vacation.
Posting a photo of something like a landmark you see while on vacation also lets thieves know you’re so far way, you won’t be home any time soon, giving them ample time to get in and get out. While it is tempting to share photos as soon as you take them, save them for a mass upload after you get home.
Though businesses want you to do it, and will often incentivize you to check-in to their business – this tells the world where you are so people can find you – and alerts the world to the fact that you are somewhere other than home. Though tagging the people you are with may be fun, it can also put them at risk too. If you choose to engage in this activity, make sure someone is home – and make sure any friends you tag in the update are okay with it, too.
If you really want to check-in somewhere, check in when you get home – as Facebook check-in lets you check in anywhere, at anytime. Avoid services such as FourSquare that require your exact location at the time of check-in.
If you publicly respond to an event posted on social media, you are telling the world a specific date and time you will not be home. Even if the event is invite-only, there may be other people you do not know invited to the event. Those people may decline, but may know you’re not going to be home. Just because you do not know them doesn’t mean they can’t find out where you live.
Instead of publicly responding to the event, send a private message to the host. Better yet, contact them offline with a text message, a phone call, or a face-to-face visit. This way you can let the host know whether or not you’ll be in attendance, without giving the rest of the world an answer.
Posting Photos of Home Renovations
If you are renovating your home, it is not a good idea to post photos of the project process until the project is complete. Home renovations show the rest of the world that your home is vulnerable. There could be other ways to get into your home, without using a door or a window. The viral effect of social media potentially puts those photos in the hands of people you don’t know. Hold off on posting any photos until you have both a before and an after to show – when the project is complete and your home is no longer vulnerable.
Sharing on social media not only increases the likelihood of a home invasion, but it can also threaten your identity as well. Most accounts have a security question feature that will allow you to reset your password if you ever forget it. Many of these “security” questions are simple like, “What is your pet’s name?” It can be easy to slip up and forget – posting your dog’s name or other security question answers on social media profiles. WIth this information, thieves can gain access to your email, bank accounts, and other information, which not only puts your home at risk, but your finances as well.
What About Privacy Settings?
Keeping your social media updates set to “Friends Only” is a great way to safeguard against information being public. However, no privacy setting information on any social network is 100% fool-proof. Plus, if you have added people to your friends list for the purpose of playing games, you’ve got “friends” who have access to your information even though you do not know who they really are.
If you add people you don’t know for the purpose of networking or online gaming, add those people to the “Restricted” list, which prevents them from seeing anything you do not post publicly – even though they are on your friends list. This way you can add an additional layer of protection, without worrying about who’s on your list. Even still, be careful about what you post.
It is also a good idea to get in the habit of regularly checking (and updating) your privacy settings, not just on Facebook, but on any other social media site you regularly contribute to. Facebook has been known to change privacy settings without your knowledge whenever they make an adjustment, so you may accidentally be sharing more information than you intend to. Check these settings once a month or so, just to be safe.