10 August 2017

Your Facebook posts could put you at risk of a break-in

When you're on holiday this summer, think twice about posting pictures on social media sites while you're away: you might be accidentally advertising that your home is empty and increasing the risk of a burglary.

Be careful what you post and when

Posting holiday snaps and sharing your location on social media like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter while you're travelling could invalidate your home insurance as it shows that your home is likely to be unoccupied. If criminals find out your address, they could try breaking in.

Sharing details and pictures of expensive new purchases on social media can not only be seen by your friends and followers but can be shared and retweeted so strangers see them. Review the privacy settings on your social media accounts and make sure only trusted people can see your posts while you're away. Or just consider not posting holiday pictures until you get back.

Vigilance is the watchword: a picture online is not the same as a framed, family snap on the mantelpiece at home, only to be seen by people you know well.

Tips to keep your home safe

  • Most burglaries in the summer happen because householders leave doors or windows open, so check and lock doors and windows when you leave the house
  • Don't make a burglar's job easier by leaving handy props like wheelie bins or crates that can be used as ladders to get into windows or onto roofs
  • Never leave keys under a mat or a flowerpot – they're the first place a burglar will look
  • Try not to leave keys on the hallway table or in the lock that a burglar can try to grab
  • Try not to let mail stack up on the doormat as thieves will check to see if you may be away
  • Make sure important documents are locked away in a safe place
  • In the garden, make sure your shed has a strong padlock: sheds are often a source of equipment for burglars to use to break in
  • A high and secure fence with a trellis above it acts a further safety measure by putting off burglars from scaling it
  • If you're taking a taxi to the airport, use a trusted company; rogue taxi drivers can sometimes pass on information about which homes are unoccupied
  • Also, don't write your home address on your luggage labels; if you become separated from your luggage this could alert someone that your home is empty.

Tips to stay safe on social

  • Review your privacy settings. Sites like Facebook and Twitter regularly update privacy settings so what you thought was private may not be anymore
  • Decide who you want to be able to see your profile and public posts. Consider limiting it to family and your friends
  • Don't accept requests from people you don't know and review your friends list to see if there are contacts you've only met once or twice
  • Be careful about the personal information you make available online
  • Do you use social media on your mobile? Most smartphones have GPS trackers, which, if switched on, will automatically update your location. So don't check in to Facebook at the airport! 
  • Avoid tagging yourself when you are at home, as it can show where you live and at a future date be used by a tech-savvy criminal.

What do insurance companies think?

Insurers deal in risk, so if your online activity increases the risk of a burglary, it could be judged irresponsible and affect your home insurance cover.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) warns that along with Christmas, the summer holidays are a peak time for home burglary claims because many homes are empty or because warm weather encourages people to leave doors and windows open.

“Think about how to keep your home secure when you go on holiday, so it's less likely you will suffer a break-in or burglary," says Sarah Cordy of the ABI. "Lock all doors and windows and be cautious about what details you share on social media so you are not inadvertently advertising your home to strangers."

What else can you do?

The risk of being burgled because of something you do on social media shouldn't stop you enjoying sites like Facebook, but it's important to use common sense and take precautions, including having the right type of home and contents insurance.

See if Nationwide’s home insurance could be right for you

So, avoid taking that excited selfie of you arriving at the airport. Instead, relax, enjoy your holiday and post a selection of the best photos online when you get back.

Home insurance is underwritten and administered by U K Insurance Limited.

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