Is Social Media Putting Your Home’s Security At Risk?By - 06/19/2015
We often think of the internet as being a destination. A place that we go to that extends beyond our homes. But did you know that the things we do on the internet may impact our home’s security?
Am I really putting myself at risk?
When researching facts I read a couple reputable articles that claimed social media wasn’t that big of a threat to home security. It made me question the validity of the facts I had found and the value I would add if I presented them.
Jason Falls, a social media expert, shared his opinion in an article responding to Allstate’s Project Share campaign.
The fact of the matter is that if someone wants to break into your home, they’re going to break into your home. Social media is not likely to have anything to do with it.
Does he have a point? Yes. Does this mean that you should throw caution to the side while sharing your tweets with the world? No. His major concern with connecting social media with burglaries is that he feels most of the damning facts are from companies with ulterior motives. I would argue the opposite to be true. For example, the Allstate campaign he mentions. Allstate isn’t trying to scare you. They simply what you do protect your home as much as possible so that they don’t have to payout if you become a victim. There is no financial gain for them to put money into research and a campaign connecting social media and burglaries.
Linda Nagelhout of connectedcops.net is another non-believer. In fact, she dedicated her final thesis to the topic. Her main argument is that social media is not as lucrative as hitting the streets looking for targets. While she may be right, this argument assumes that burglars are hard-working individuals willing to go door-to-door trying to find the right victim. I would argue that most are lazy and would prefer to work from home aka use social media. If they can find a way to do all of their research online, that is preferable. Nagelhout also emphasizes that social media users understand the risks and are starting to implement better privacy policies to protect their social media accounts. Again, this may be true but recent news stories point to the fact that most victims are “Friends” with their attackers so privacy settings are irrelevant.
Nationwide conducted a survey in 2013 that found that 41% of 18-34 year old homeowners surveyed post social media photos/updates while on vacation. The same survey calls those that post on social media “people who put themselves at risk for home theft”. The average cost to replace stolen items in a home with high social media check-ins? $5,527. The average cost to replace stolen items in a home with a lower level of social media check-ins? $3,049. Could it be that burglars spend more time in homes where they know people are away?
Could it be that burglars spend more time in homes where they know people are away?
In 2010 a site called Please Rob Me launched. The site is no longer in operation but it showed how easy it was to extract personal data from social media. It even offered a searchable database that you could filter by location to find those near you that were “checked-in” elsewhere. Another defunct site called icanstalku.com used Twitter for the same purpose. The newest site PleaseDontRobMe.com captures information about Swedish users who are not at home. Once the site has determined a user is gone, it extracts data from a Swedish phone book, and captures the GPS-coordinates before posting names and pictures along with a thank you note (see picture below). If you navigate to their map you can literally see the names of people who are currently on vacation with estimated locations. Think it’s hard to figure out where you live using your pictures and social media? Think again. This service uses Instagram to find data which is a social media site not even mentioned on our Infographic.
The real proof is in the pudding. You better bet that there are actual stories of burglars admitting to using social media as a tool to select targets. What’s interesting is that in most cases the victims were burglarized by people in their approved “friends” list. While having secure privacy settings is a must, you should also be careful about oversharing with those that you’ve approved as friends. It doesn’t mean you can’t share, just delay sharing. Share a picture of your amazing dessert once you’re home, brag about your vacation once you’ve returned. Delayed gratification is hard but necessary.
- Police arrested three men in connection with 18 home burglaries in New Hampshire. The thieves picked their targets using Facebook updates from their Facebook “friends”. Source
- Another couple was burglarized by a Facebook “friend” after posting their plans to attend a concert. Source
- Just last year three men were arrested in Kansas in connection with a burglary ring that used Facebook, Twitter, and newspaper announcements to target homes.
- An Arizona man became a target after tweeting that he was headed out-of-town.
- Earlier this year Ricky Hatton, former world champion boxer, had his home raided after he tweeted that he was out of town.
It’s Not All Gloom and Doom
I think what’s important here is to take steps to protect yourself. More importantly, don’t shun social media. Social Media has just as must potential for good as it does for bad. Just last week a social media post went viral in my home town where we all worked together to find a grandpa who had wandered away during the day. There are plenty of national stories where online video surveillance footage helped police find and arrest criminals and of course social media can be a great tool to help locate missing children and spread emergency messages. Stay safe, be smart, and don’t overshare.