How Burglars Use Facebook To Target Vacationing Homeowners

facebookYou’re out on vacation and you want to make your friends back home jealous, so you post every detail of your itinerary on Facebook, you tweet about it on Twitter and you check yourself in on Foursquare. It’s natural. We all want to brag about how much fun we’re having away, but what experts say you should be aware of is that all of this information can easily make you a target for burglars.

David Walsh, chief executive of Netwatch, a security monitoring service that recently expanded across the Atlantic from the UK to the U.S., issued a warning to property owners last month, saying that there had been a growing number of offline incidents resulting from information shared online. “Social networks have become part of our daily lives, but people need to consider the risks of posting their location on these sites. Facebook burglaries are real and growing in popularity.

“You may think that checking in at the airport is a nice way to let your friends and family know that you’re going on holiday, but in reality you are also letting people know that your home is empty and an easy target,” he added. “If you want to share your holiday plans, don’t do it in real time, wait until you are safely home.”

Summer is traditionally the season with the most burglaries, according to FBI statistics, signaling a time when homeowners should be extra vigilant about protecting their goods. One of the biggest tips ADT Security shared with its homeowners this summer was to be extremely cautious with social media, no matter how small of a target you think you are.

“More than one-third of Americans polled in ADT’s 2013 Safety Data Index survey said they believed their home was too ordinary and would not interest a burglar. However, a vacant home could be enough to attract unwanted attention,” the  security system provider said. “Be careful about broadcasting your travel plans. Burglars can use posts on Twitter or Facebook to determine when you’ll be away.”

ASG Security also warned homeowners this summer to keep their vacations off social media. ASG blogger Bob Ryan said that even if you have a private page that can only be viewed by your Facebook friends, it’s still not safe because you don’t know who you can trust.

“Now, Facebook has added features like a scrolling update of comments friends have made on others’ pages; you can find it plastered in the upper right corner of your home page. Although it may be fun to see what your friends are saying to people you don’t know, that also means that people you don’t know may be able to see some of your updates — including the ones that say, ‘Can’t wait to leave for Hawaii tomorrow.’”

Ryan noted that such comments usually generate larger responses, which in turn increase the number of people who will see the update on their home pages. He also said to be careful on Twitter if your handle includes your real name.

According to police, burglars have been known to search Facebook or Twitter for targeted keywords or to look at who has checked into airport lounges on Foursquare. Meanwhile, the Exif metadata contained in image files can often reveal travelers’ locations, though most social media platforms now remove Exif data from uploaded photos.

Some devices such as the iPhone automatically include GPS location data, which experts say can easily be used to track a users’ location if it is uploaded onto a site like a blog that doesn’t remove the information.

The UK’s Distinctive Doors, a door supplier, suggests that you “reverse stalk yourself.” Evaluate the information you share on your social media accounts and see if you would be able to discover where you live and where you’ve traveled. For more helpful tips on how to keep your home safe this summer, check out Distinctive Doors’ informative infographic below:

how-burglars-are-using-social-media.pngHow Burglars Are Using Using Social Media Infographic – An infographic by the team at Distinctive Doors

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Top 10 Ways to Protect Your Home from Theft

locking-door-300x199We Canadians know we live in a relatively safe country; but that doesn’t mean we should let our guards down. Every three minutes, one Canadian home is robbed. In 2010, Canada had 578 burglaries for every 100,000 people. We all know what to do when we’ve been broken into – call 911. But what can you do to decrease your chance of getting broken into in the first place? Here are 10 tips to keep your home safe:
1. Lock it up

This one may seem obvious, but the RCMP says many Canadians do not lock all doors and windows before they leave the home. Police also advise locking your front door even if you’re just in your back yard. Thieves are known to ‘slip-in’ and take things quickly. Some estimates have burglars accessing the home through an open door or window 30% of the time.
2. Home Alarm Systems

When you leave the house, always make sure to set your home alarm if you have one.

Did you having a home security system may qualify you for a discount off your home insurance premiums? Depending on the type of system you get (or have), you can probably expect at least a 5% discount, if not more.
3. Go for the ‘lived-in’ look

Before you go away on holiday, arrange for someone to mow your lawn and/or park in your driveway. This will make it look like you’re still home and help deter robbers. The RCMP also recommend using timers on indoor lights or installing motion sensor lights outdoors. Most burglars target homes they suspect are unoccupied at the time.
4. Don’t advertise

Don’t broadcast details about upcoming trips away from home on social networks. Thieves are known to check out people’s Facebook and Twitter pages to determine when they’ll be out of the house. This behaviour is more common around Christmas, March Break and in the middle of the summer.
5. Put away the packaging

Don’t leave big box packaging, especially for high-price items like TVs, computers etc., in your driveway or carport. This sends a message to potential burglars that you have goods worth stealing.
6. Lock up your tools

Ladders, saws, axes, wire cutters and hammers can all be used to gain illegal access to your home. While it is common for homeowners to store many of these items in their yard or garden, it is dangerous. Thieves often use a resident’s own tools to break into their home.
7. Look out for one another

Consider joining or setting up a block watch/neighbourhood watch group in your area. This provides an extra incentive for your neighbours to report any suspicious activity around your residence. If you live in a building, work with your neighbours to make it as safe as possible; gain an understanding of who belongs in your building and who does not.
8. Get a (fake) dog

If you have a dog, make it known. Even if you don’t have a pooch, consider putting up a ‘beware of dog’ sign anyway. It’s said that burglars avoid houses with dogs.
9. Do some gardening

Keep hedges, trees and bushes well-trimmed, especially if they are near doors and windows. These plants provide cover, making it easier for burglars to access your home without a neighbour seeing. Trim any large tree branches close to your second floor. Thieves with a knack for climbing could use these to access your home.
10. Clearly display your house number

Make sure your house or unit number is clearly displayed outdoors in the day and night. The RCMP says this will guarantee emergency crews can find you quickly if you are being broken into.

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