In 2016, several surveys were carried out in the US and UK on prisoners convicted of burglary. Some of them had an impressive hunting table with over a hundred burglaries in a 30 year career. An unexpected element stood out of the results: a significant portion of criminals used social media to choose their target during the surveillance phase.
The insurance specialist Admiral reveals that one burglar in four tag their target’s location when they travel. According to their survey, 30% of social media users have mentioned a future holiday on their accounts, and 1 in 4 tag their location when travelling. 70% post photos on Instagram while away. An easy way for burglars to spot empty homes.
National statistics show that the risk of being burgled while travelling is increased by 40%.
An American investigation team sent surveys to 500 convicted burglars in New York and New Jersey in 2016. Over 10% of the respondents said they’ve logged on to find targets and a good time to strike.
In 2015, a professional burglar targeted 33 women in California using Facebook and Instagram. He spotted them in public places and used GPS data of the photos posted to find their homes.
How do burglars get to your social media accounts and how can you protect yourself?
They get to you by stalking your social media and adding you as a fake account. They can also use hacked accounts. These are the things they look out for:
Any info they can get from facebook
- Lock down your Facebook privacy settings using Facebook’s privacy shortcuts. They help you control who can find you on Facebook, who can see your posts, and who can contact you.
- Never accept a friend request from a stranger. Even a “friend of a friend” may be a fraud. Ask your mutual friend if he/she actually knows the person before accepting.
- Share personal data sparingly. Sharing your phone number, home address, hometown, or birth date, etc. makes it easy for burglars to locate you and increases your vulnerability to identity theft. Never share any information that cyber thieves could use to crack your password by answering common security questions (mother’s maiden name, pet’s name, first school attended, etc.).
Looking out for evidence of when you’re going on a trip.
Don’t get carried away and mention too many details while sharing your best holiday pictures, best is to do it when you are back home.
Looking out for any info you share about your routine – beware runners!
Most burglaries take place between 9am and 2pm in day time, as most people would be away working, kids at school, doing activities outside. Even noting in your “for sale” ad on Craigslist that people should “call after 5pm” advertises that you’re away during the day.
From your location settings.
The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has more information about smartphone privacy and geotagging:
Depending on the settings, your smartphone may be using its built-in GPS capability to embed your exact location into the file of photos you take using the smartphone’s camera. The process of embedding location information into photos is called geotagging. If you share your photos and they end up on the Internet, criminals can use the geotag to track your movements or find out where you live.
Reverse image search
If you post a picture on your blog or website and share it on your personal social media accounts, there is an easy way for burglars to identify who has posted a travel blog post with a reverse image search. Basically a search engine like Google will give you the different places where the same picture has been published, including Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.
Depending on how private your profiles are on those different accounts, it could be quite easy from there to get your full identity; a search with your name then might reveal documents or directories with your personal address.
Social media is like alcohol, it can harm you when misused, think before you post and use with moderation! Surveys also reveal the best deterrent is a burglar alarm, still the best way to protect your home and family.