Ugur Nedim explains how burglars now check Facebook instead of looking in your windows to see when you aren’t home.
Posting pics onto social media may seem like a fairly innocent exercise—but according to experts, it can make families more susceptible to burglary.
A recent survey conducted by insurer GIO has revealed that around half of us post pics on social media and around a third use GPS check-ins to broadcast our exact location.
We do this even though we have never actually met most of our social media followers or “friends”—meaning that, unbeknownst to us, a potential burglar could use the information for sinister purposes.
How Do Burglars Use Social Media?
According to police, checking in at a location or posting pictures sends a clear message that a house is unoccupied.
This has been backed by a UK study which surveyed 50 former burglars and found that a whopping 78% of home burglaries relied on social media to target victims. Thieves also relied on mapping platforms such as Google Street View to scope out homes—checking for side entrances and potential security barriers such as alarms and cameras.
Another study, conducted by a Perth university and the Australian Institute of Criminology, found that many thieves spend considerable time scoping status updates to pick out potential homes to target. And, even if you do not post your exact address, seasoned burglars can find it within a few minutes using additional information from your page and other internet searches.
Homes were most at risk after Christmas, with many posting photos of expensive gifts received from friends and family—showing burglars exactly what was up for grabs.
What Can You Do to Stay Safe?
The best thing to do is refrain from posting photos while you’re away until you get back. Avoid checking into airports and faraway destinations; and don’t give away details of your trip via status updates. Last but not least, never post photos of expensive items.
But, if the prospect of showing off your holiday pics of gifts is too enticing, make sure you know exactly who’s watching. Set your privacy to enable only family and friends to view your updates and photos, and regularly “cull” your Facebook friends so that only trusted people can see your posts.
Besides maintaining your online security, there are a few tricks you can implement around the home while you are on vacation. Setting lights on timers can deter would-be burglars by giving the impression that you are home, and asking a trusted neighbor or friend to keep an eye on the house will increase the chance that you are alerted to suspicious activity.
If you’ve always wanted an excuse to get a pet, it might be worthwhile investing in a furry friend too as a security guard—around 53% of burglars say that the presence of a dog deters them from breaking into a home. If you are not willing to make such a big commitment, fixing “Beware of the Dog” signs to your fence can also be an effective deterrent.
If you are going away for a considerable length of time, security experts also recommend redirecting your mail to a P.O. Box to ensure burglars are not alerted to your absence by an overflowing mailbox. Alternatively, you can ask your neighbor to collect your mail while away.
Of course, burglar alarms, security cameras, and secure deadbolt locks also provide a great defense against burglary—with around 90% of burglars saying they actively avoid homes with alarm systems.
Remember, it can take thieves just 15 minutes to break into your home—and under 2 minutes to break into a house with no visible security—so spending a little time researching security options can definitely be worth it in the long run.