03 May 2016

Don’t encourage burglars to ‘like’ your house

Gone are the days when thieves hid behind the garden hedge waiting for people to leave their homes unattended; today, police are warning that sharing holiday plans online could alert social media savvy burglars to the fact that you're not at home.

If you know what kind of information criminals use you can make sure that logging into your social media accounts doesn’t leave you vulnerable.

Beat the burglars

1. Share safely

Posting your movements online by ‘checking in’ gives criminals the opportunity to strike when they know you’re out.

Whether you’re telling people that you’ve arrived at your holiday destination – or just your favourite restaurant around the corner – shouting about it in your status can give thieves the opportunity to target you.

Never post your holiday dates online and consider when you post your images online.

‘If you want to upload photos of your holiday, or anything else that shows that you’re away from home, it’s best to wait until you’re back to avoid making it an easy target for criminals’, advises Tim Mitchell, cybersecurity expert at Get Safe Online.

‘In the US, insurance companies have started to refuse to pay out for burglary claims if they find that someone has posted or tweeted that they’re away. This sort of act is starting to be regarded as negligence, the same as if you had left doors and windows open while you’re out,’ he says.

2. Remember: a picture tells a thousand words

It’s not just holiday selfies that could help burglars make their way to your front door. A photo of your pet cat could help them to find out where you live!

This is because most smartphones automatically tag your photos with data, known as Exchangeable Image File Format (EXIF), such as the date, time and camera used. Some devices will include the precise GPS coordinates of where the photo was taken – called geotagging – making it easy for anyone to find out where your new house is or where valuables in the picture might be located.

Many social media sites will automatically strip out this information, but if you want to be safe, security software company AVG advises that you take three steps:

  • Disable location services on your devices
  • Remove EXIF data from images before sharing them
  • Check location options in apps and social media.

3. Keep a close eye on social media settings

As well as checking location options, it’s a good idea to keep your social life away from prying eyes by keeping your accounts private. At least 13% of people still have public social media accounts, according to a survey commissioned for Get Safe Online.

According to Get Safe Online, burglars can use image scans, such as Google Goggles, to find where else it’s been posted; good privacy settings can help avoid cyber-savvy crooks quickly gathering all the information online.

Tip: on Facebook, you can view your profile as it appears to other people. Simply click the padlock at the top right of the page and under ‘Privacy Check-up’ you’ll be able to review your settings. On other sites like Twitter, avoid including personal details in your username.

Of course, some burglaries are not so well-planned so take extra security precautions to keep opportunistic thieves away. Have a good home insurance policy in place just in case.

If you’re a Nationwide customer – or are thinking about a new policy – check out our cover today.

Nationwide home insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited.

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