Social Media and Burglary: Are we leaving ourselves at risk?
Being a victim of burglary is a highly intrusive crime and one that can cause you to feel vulnerable in your own home. Domestic burglary is one of the most frequent crimes to affect the UK with it accounting for one in ten of all theft offences.
It’s difficult to predict where burglars will strike, so most of us prepare by securing our homes. Despite installing such security measures, the majority are neglecting important precautions online, and more specifically on social media. Many will advertise personal information over social, leading burglars straight to their front door. Here we look at the problems facing social media users, and how to prevent becoming a victim of crime.
Social media has given a platform for everyone to be able to effortlessly share their lives with all their extended list of online friends. The latest holiday snaps and selfies fill newsfeeds during the summer months, with an added smattering of location tags at beach resorts, restaurants, and famous tourist spots. Given that most of the UK population are now on social media, the opportunity for exploiting the platform to gain information for criminal use is a real danger.
Burglars can use all personal information in order to take advantage and identify their target homes. The crucial point being whether a profile is set to private or openly available.
Celebrity reports of burglary, having left their property vulnerable through social media, are those that have been the most widely reported. Ricky Hatton, former world champion boxer, was one of the high-profile burglary cases in early 2015. After having tweeted away from his Manchester home for the day in London, his home was raided by burglars, who stole watches worth £28,000 and a number of €500 notes according to the BBC.
A Lack of Awareness
The security measures that are now available on social media have improved greatly, allowing for tailored personal security based on your requirements. Despite these being available, in a recent study conducted by the Safe Shop, statistics collected across the UK found that 65% of UK residents wouldn’t have security settings on all of their posts on social media, highlighting the lack of awareness or uptake of the security features.
Exploiting the lack of security is as simple as searching locations for recent updates online that indicate an empty house and doing a little research with that information. In fact, a study found that when asking people previously convicted for burglary, 75% believed that burglars use social media to find properties to target.
In the same Safe Shop study, when participants were asked whether they had ever tagged themselves in a location away from home on their social media profiles, 50% of those questioned stated that they have tagged themselves while abroad on holiday and 43% had tagged at an airport.
With the holiday season in mind, we thought that we’d look into just how easy it was to find information over social media that could be exploited to find an empty house
How Burglars Can Find Information
Tweets checking in to airports can easily be searched to find those flying from the airport on holiday. As an example, this anonymous person posted that they were flying to Philadelphia from Heathrow airport.
From this it is possible to look through the tweets and select a profile which has their residential town open for all to see. Additional information that can be used to help pinpoint a house such as place of work can also be seen in this case.
Using this person’s name and town information, they can be searched for on the 192 electoral roll online. This will bring up their address and further information such as marriage status and other occupants of residence.
Now the burglar knows that this house is empty for a period of time while this person is in Philadelphia. If they want to be sure on location then the burglar could simply use Google Maps to pick a vantage point or vulnerable entry point.
In three steps a burglar has been able to find a person away from their home on Twitter, see their home town, and from this find their house address to target as an empty home. All of it stemming from a social media account giving out valuable information easily.
Should a burglary take place, one of the processes which you will inevitably have to go through is your insurance for reimbursing for your stolen items. However, in a recent statement for the Financial Ombudsman services, it was suggested that there was the possibility of insurance companies rejecting any claims due to ‘advertising’ the property as empty online.
- Settings: The constant updates of security features that are being made available on social media means that you should check regularly to see whether there’s something that you’re missing. It is best to ensure that your profile is not viewable to anyone who isn’t a friend or family.
- Photos: Uploading your holiday photographs as they happen abroad can act as confirmation to somebody looking for an empty household. Save uploading your snaps until you get home.
- Apps: Applications on Facebook will generally ask for use of your personal information as well as friends list. While not placing you in direct danger of domestic burglary, security flaws have in the past shown weaknesses in the systems that can expose people to identity theft.
- Tagging: Tagging yourself in Budapest might be a good way to earn kudos points with your friends, but it also tells people that you’re not going to be in your home for an extended period of time. Use the security settings to full effect to get everything out of them.
- You should never offer your address up over your social media accounts. Even just your local town as it is then possible to search for the full address online with simply your name. Your address is the most sensitive piece of information online – protect it!
If you would like information on how to avoid burglary whilst on holiday, view the ‘Guide to Keeping Safe on Social Media’ produced by the Safe Shop to accompany the statistics.