As the use of social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, grows are people giving away too much information about themselves and their whereabouts that can then be used by professional burglars?
This is exactly the case according to a new report, The Digital Criminal, prepared by Legal and General and reformed burglar Michael Fraser.
Worryingly, nearly 40% of Facebook and Twitter users have posted status updates about their holiday plans and over 30% that they are away for the weekend.
There seems to be some competition amongst users to get a high number of ‘friends’ or ‘followers’, so much so that they will become ‘friends’ or ‘followers’ of people they don’t really know.
As part of the research for the report, 100 ‘friend’ or ‘follow’ requests were issued at random. Of these, 13% were accepted on Facebook but a staggering 92% were accepted on Twitter, without checks.
The result being that a complete stranger could get to know your interests, location and movements.
Michael Fraser, star of the BBC’s Beat the Burglar series, commented ‘I call it ‘internet shopping for burglars’. It is incredibly easy to use social networking sites to target people, and then scope out more information on their actual home using other internet sites like Google Street View, all from the comfort of the sofa.’
He added ‘People with specific interests are also an easy target. Pet owners are a good example – their home security is often not of a sufficiently high level, as they rely on their dog for security, have cat flaps that weaken a back door, or leave their alarms turned off.’
Clearly whilst the use of social networking sites are a wonderful way of sharing experiences with friends, there is a need for caution.
As Garry Skelton, Marketing Director of Legal & General’s general insurance business comments ‘Always be aware that a lot of the time, talking on a social media site, such as Facebook, is like talking out loud in the street or down the pub: you are never completely sure who might be listening in.’
If you’d like more information, you can download The Digital Criminal report – it includes information on the personality types that burglars will target online, the type of information that may be valuable to a burglar and tips for social network users.
There is growing concern amongst home insurance providers over the use of such as Twitter and Facebook and according to Confused.com they “are starting to taking this into account when they are assessing claims and we may in future see insurers declining claims if they believe the customer was negligent”.
Insurance providers may respond by raising home insurance premiums for users of such as Twitter and Facebook users.