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Keep Your Home Safe from Social Thieves

Learn the ins and outs of social media to keep your home and property out of harm’s way.

In 2010, Nashua, New Hampshire, police discovered that a string of burglaries was tied to information pulled from social media status updates.

Even if you’d never leave the house without locking the doors, your use of social media sites has the potential to compromise your privacy and safety. Your friends might love seeing images of your kids on vacation, but thieves only see that you’re out of town.

Consultant and speaker John Sileo, a privacy expert who runs thinklikeaspy.com, says he believes that users aren’t aware of how much personal info they’re giving up online.

“Anything you post — a photo, a video or a blog post — is public, it’s permanent and it’s exploitable. Once you put it out there, as much as you think it’s private, it will probably get out,” says Sileo.

Rather than give up social networking entirely, you can avoid many of the dangers by being aware of the risks and being smarter about what you post.

The Basics
Review your accounts. First take a look at the social media sites you’ve signed up for. If you’re no longer active on other social media sites that may have access to some of your personal information (say your email address or phone number), delete those accounts.

Re-evaluate your friends. Consider how you choose your friends on social networks. Do you only connect with close friends and family or do you also allow for friends-of-friends, business contacts and anyone you’ve met “in real life”? It’s good to set and stick to rules for how you’ll accept friend requests and which social platform you’ll use for the types of people in your life. For example, use one platform for friends and another for business associates.

Use common sense when posting. Avoid uploading photos of your brand-new home-theater setup or the new car parked in your driveway. Don’t post status updates telling the world you’re about to go on a long trip to Europe. Wait until you’re home from vacation to post anything about your travels. Try to keep from clueing everyone in to your daily work and going-out schedule.

Update your settings. Be aware of who can see your status updates and profile information. If you don’t want specific people to see your posts, you can update visibility in your privacy settings.

Disable geo-tagging. Some photo sites allow you to tag photos with a location. If you take a lot of photos in your house or yard, it’s like handing a street guide to potential thieves.

Avoid location services. On location-based social networks, you should be even more careful about adding friends. Change settings to limit what’s posted publicly and never create a check-in spot out of your home or anyone else’s home.

Social media is a great way to make new contacts and share information with people you care about. But it only takes one unwanted “friend” with too much information to put your home in danger. Stay on the safe side and post wisely.

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