The Internet and Social Media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc… allow you to share information, events and things about your life with family and friends faster and more efficiently than ever before. While this is all pretty cool, it can also give criminals and thieves the information they need to make you and your family their next target.
While social media is often associated with allowing people to be targets of online scams and account hacks, for the purpose of this article I am going to talk about how to avoid being a target for physical crimes such as burglary, theft and robbery.
Many of your social media vulnerabilities can be overcome by your privacy settings. Take Facebook for example. You can limit your online exposure from Facebook by tightening your privacy settings and keeping your friends list under control. However if you are on Twitter or Foursquare, you have less control over information that anyone who knows what your handle is can see.
Below are a few tips that will keep you from being a social media target for physical crimes.
Outings and Vacations
While it can be nice to boast about tickets to that concert, a football game your upcoming vacation, is it really smart to let anyone know that you are going to be away from your home for an extended period? No, it isn’t.
If you want to share your vacation with your social media friends, do it after you get back. Post your pictures after you get home and don’t post pictures while you are away. That picture of you with your feet kicked up and a cold cocktail on the table next to you on some remote beach somewhere is an indicator that you are thousands of miles away from your home. This is great information for a burglar to use to hit your house while you escape on that beach.
Also remember, location check in services like on Facebook and Foursquare can also give thieves real time information about your location. Criminals can know where you are, and more importantly where you aren’t.
New Presents and Purchases
You know that flat screen TV you got for Christmas, or that expensive new “toy’ you went out and bought for yourself? It would be great to post a picture of it to show all your online friends, but it can also make you a target.
Posting status updates and pictures of your expensive shiny new stuff is generally a bad idea.
Have a conversation with your children about social media and try to get them to see the vulnerability that it can provide for criminals. I’m not just talking about predators here. Explain to them that posting certain status updates, like the examples above, can make your whole family a target for burglars, robbers and thieves.
Email Safety Tip
Most people don’t think about email as a social media tool, but it was actually the first. Just a quick tip here on how your email account could make you a target of theft. That automatic “out of office” reply from your email account saying you will be out of town for a period of time is great information for criminals looking to rob you.
If you’re like me, your email account contacts are not as personal as your Facebook friends, meaning that you are broadcasting this out of town reply to people you may not want to have this information. Instead of out of office auto replies, just respond to emails individually as soon as you can. Anyone that you regularly do business with will probably already know that you will be away anyway.
How to Stay Safe
Your best defense when it comes to social media is to get to know the privacy settings of each site you and the members of your family use and to limit the amount of exposure you open yourself up for. You should also research the social media accounts of you and your family to see exactly what information you post is readily available to anyone online.
If you are serious about your family’s social media and online presence and how it affects your safety, you might consider hiring a professional webmaster or online consultant to assist you in keeping you and your family from being a target for criminals.
Even if your social media presence is under control, hiring a Cape Cod security patrol for vacation watch services or sign up with a local home watch provider for the winter season is the best way to make sure your home is secure when you are not there.
See also: Social Thievery Infographic