You’ve probably never given it much thought, but your social media use has the potential to put your home at risk. While “checking in” at a certain location or uploading a picture of your new home stereo to Facebook seems like a harmless and common way to utilize social media, it may also put your home and properties at risk, as burglars have begun using information disclosed online to scope out potential target homes for robbery. However, with a few simple precautions taken you will be well on your way to deterring any attempts at a break-in in your home.
Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare
In a survey carried out by UK home security experts Friedland with a number of ex-burglars, 78% of the participants stated that they believe Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and other social media sites are used by thieves to target potential properties.
It’s quite simple: Whenever you post that you will be away from your home, either by letting people know up front, or by checking in to a location using a smart phone, your home and properties are at risk because no one is there to guard it. Uploading a picture or a video of valuable items that you have at home might also draw a thief’s attention.
Google Street View
While Google Street View isn’t really a social network, it too has presented a rather novel safety issue to the public. In the survey previously mentioned, it was established that 74% of ex-burglars believe that Google Street View is playing a significant role in home thefts. By using this feature, burglars can scope out a prospective property, and maybe even locate weaknesses in its security. By doing this, the perpetrator could come better prepared for a break-in; 80% of the ex-burglars explained that the first attempt to break into a home tends to be unsuccessful – that they usually would prefer to return to the target location, often more than once, before attempting an actual break-in.
What should I do then?
The foundation of social media use lies in a readiness of users to share. Because of this, we all face a dilemma when disclosing information. Basically, you have to assess what kind of information you are putting out there, and who gets to see it. On Facebook it is recommended that you set your privacy settings to only allow friends to access your information and feeds. Furthermore, you should only add actual friends to your network. But Facebook is only one medium; there are several others, and they all work in different ways so it should be a priority for you to know how information is distributed and accessed when you disclose it.
You shouldn’t have to hold back on posting pictures of your new car or stereo, or announcing that you are leaving home for the holidays, as long as you are aware of who has access to the information you disclose. The idea is to stay vigilant – not paranoid, otherwise you won’t be able to enjoy the many great opportunities that social media offers.
In principle, one can’t really do much to prevent burglars from using Google Street View. You can however try locating your home via the application yourself, and determine whether there is anything you might want to change at home. Say for example the picture shows your bike visibly parked in front of your home where a thief might easily take it. It might show valuable possessions in plain view of passersby (both inside and outside of the building). These are things you can usually change in order to deter a potential break-in.
1. Set Facebook privacy settings to allow only friends access to your content.
2. Only add actual friends to Facebook.
3. Don’t post pictures of valuable items in your home, unless you are fairly certain that it does not compromise the safety of your property.
4. Be careful about announcements that involve you not being home, unless you are fairly certain that it does not compromise the safety of your property.
5. You should avoid having valuable items exposed in plain view to passersby at your home.
Aside from these measures, you always have the ability to secure your home the traditional way, by acquiring a security system, which will deter the vast majority of burglars by simply being visible. As a final note, it should be reminded that the survey providing the key statistics for this article was one UK based survey, and as such its findings are neither conclusive nor globally applicable in any way, but we can assume that there is a general tendency towards a heavier use of social media and Google Street View as tools in home robbery planning.