Friday, November 4, 2011

That tweet about your upcoming weekend trip to Vegas?

Perhaps not too good an idea.

According to a survey conducted by Credit Sesame this year, a whopping 78% of 50 ex-burglars interviewed said that they strongly believed social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare are being used by current thieves when targeting properties. (See infographics here)

Just last year, there were nearly twice as many home burglaries in the day than in the night. This potentially implies that social media is empowering burglars to perform their illicit deed fearlessly, in broad daylight, with full knowledge that they’re not going to get caught because no one’s home.

Honestly, I’m not too surprised.

Being a social media junkie, I’m usually quick to try out new social media platforms. However, I had my reservations when Foursquare first introduced ‘check in’ – a feature that notifies the people who have access to your profile about your current location.

I was worried that we were pushing the idea of ‘online sharing’ too far.

Contrary to my worries, it seems like there are many out there who are perfectly comfortable with the idea of letting others know about their current location. A poll conducted by MetLife Auto & Homes in the U.S showed that a good 15% of Americans use social media to report that they left their home. On top of that, 35% of Americans age 18-34 check in or tweet about their location. I personally believe that the numbers could be even higher with the growing number of location-based social networking apps and websites.

I am not trying to say that we should delete our social media accounts and go back to writing letters. Social media is fascinating - It connects people all over the world together, provides us with a platform to share about our lives and help us to establish and maintain relationships across time and space.

Nevertheless, we should never forget that these are the exact same reasons that may cause our safety to be compromised when the information we share is used against us.

My advice is, the next time you share something private online, check your privacy settings to make sure that only the people you really know get to see what you post. However, if you insist on leaving your online platforms open, ensure that you are careful with what you reveal – simple stuff like avoid announcing that you’ll be out of town for an extended period of time (especially if it is obvious that you live alone) or posting photos that reveal your address or landmarks near your home could go a long way to ensure that you are safe from any possible attacks. (Check out RTC's previous article for more travel best practices that can help you stay safe during this holiday season)

Because your friends might not be the only people who care that you are away on a holiday.

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