Burglars Are Shopping for Victims Online

by Joanna Pineda Posted on September 15, 2009

Masked burglar in front of a laptop I’m online a lot and yes, I update my Facebook and Twitter accounts all day long. For some, updating their status on a minute by minute basis is almost a religion.  I follow some people who tweet ALL the details of their day, all day long.  Heck, I know where they are eating, that they’re on the metro, the books they’re reading, which family member is visiting, etc.  I have always been wary, however, of providing TMI (too much information) because it’s overkill and just not that interesting.  More recently, I have become extremely careful about updating my status and providing some types of information for security reasons.  Why?

It turns that burglars and other criminals are using social media sites to figure out who is on vacation or otherwise away from their homes for an extended period of time. An article in Britain’s Daily Mail details burglary victims whose whereabouts where determined through social media sites. In a report titled “The Digital Criminal,” Britain’s Legal and General says “38 percent of users of sites such as Facebook and Twitter have posted status updates detailing their holiday plans and a third of people have posted status updates saying that they are away for the weekend.”  In other words, many of us are effectively advertising to would-be burglars that our homes are empty!  Eeeek!

Yes, you can set your status to private on Facebook, but Twitter is totally public.  And I don’t know about you, but I find Facebook’s privacy settings a little confusing, so it’s hard to know which friends of friends can see my updates; I know they can see my comments on other people’s walls!

So, I’ve developed some personal rules re: updating my status:

A really clever cyber-criminal can piece together a lot of information about me from Google searches and social media sites, but I don’ t have to make it easy and I don’t think my friends, followers and fans really need to hear from me in real-time, all the time.

How about you?  Do you have security concerns about updating your status on various social media sites?  Do you have any stories to share?  What are your personal rules about what you will share online?

3 replies on “Burglars Are Shopping for Victims Online”

Good advice. I try to avoid even noting the city in which I live, although I slip from time to time. I have privacy settings on my Facebook page, but my Twitter stream is open since that is for my work, and my personal blog also is open. I keep in mind the old saying, “Better safe than sorry.” I’d rather be considered a little paranoid than have anything unpleasant happen.

I bought tickets for a concert yesterday and it actually had a link to post to Facebook and Twitter to advise people that you are attending the event. That’s pretty much advertising “Hey folks! I’m going to be out of my house for 2-3 hours at this particular date and time!”. Needless to say, I did not choose to add this to my Facebook page.

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