The social media burglars

Posted on June 23, 2016 by Eleanor McKenzie
Taking up travel photography

Although I’m a keen user of social media for both professional and personal purposes, the uploading my own photos to any of my accounts has never excited me. I don’t have pets to parade in front of my friends, and I can’t quite my head around the idea of taking a snap of my dinner either at home or in a restaurant. Unlike my friends who are snap-happy just about everywhere, I prefer to simply observe and remember without broadcasting everything my eyes alight on to the world. It seems that my contrarian attitude to posting photos on Facebook and anywhere else is actually a saving grace; indeed, it’s actually a rather contemporary form of home security.

It’s not just your friends admiring your holiday snaps

Burglars have cottoned on to the fact that people just love to post their holiday photos online. Aha, says Mr Burglar browsing Facebook for his area, the Smiths of Croydon are on holiday for two weeks it says here. Lovely photos – let me have a look and see if I can find their street address. He looks for your name in the electoral register and bingo, he’s got your address. It looks like an opportunity to him, because he can see you’re not there!

GPS pins show where you are

Similarly, many social media apps allow you to show your location when you’re out. I have a friend in Essex who loves using that tool on her smartphone. While she is dining at a restaurant in central London and has published the fact on Facebook so her friends can see what she’s doing, which is after all its purpose, another pair of eyes is seeing a potential opportunity for a break in. This is especially true if you use the same tool on your Facebook page when you’re at home. That just makes it even easier for burglars.

Photographing possessions

Don’t post your new possessions

It is also tempting to post pictures of that new designer handbag, latest iPhone, TV, expensive gadget or your brand new car online, but remember that now others can see them besides the people you want to admire them. You’re giving robbers a handy insight into what they’ll find in and around your home and that can have repercussions for home owners way beyond the horrible feeling that comes from being broken into and the frustrating sadness and anger that accompanies losing your possessions. And that repercussion is likely to come from your insurance company.

Don’t be reckless

According to the Financial Ombudsman Service sharing too much of your personal information on social media could be seen as leaving yourself open to burglary from an insurer’s perspective and can result in a loss of cover. It is a reality that sharing too many details with the world, such as the dates of your trip and where you’re going to, may be considered “reckless” by your insurers. You may notice in your home insurance policy, and this is standard in most policies, that you must take “reasonable care” to protect your home and contents, and this includes being careful about who you tell you’re going on holiday.

Revise your social media settings

A number of police forces use social media itself to warn people about posting details of holidays on these channels. Do you remember the days of milk and newspaper deliveries and the care people took to cancel both during holidays so that burglars wouldn’t figure out that they the homeowners were away? We need to apply that same level of care to the information we put out in the world. Certainly, if you do travel frequently and enjoy posting images then revise your privacy settings on Facebook so that only your circle of friends can see what you’re sharing. Another alternative I discovered just a few weeks ago thanks to friends holidaying in a very exotic location is a site called trackmytour.com. This allows you to create a map of your travels and post photos that your personally invited friends and family can follow.

by Eleanor McKenzie

Eleanor McKenzie is a Northern Irish writer with a passion for art, literature, and red wine. She's worked at advertising agency JWT, edited a journal for a European social policy think tank and tried to teach teenagers the difference between "there" and "their". Being 50+ has not significantly changed Eleanor's life, although she finds it a handy excuse when she wants to avoid anything too energetic.