Careful what you Tweet – crooks could be using social networks, too

Millions of people are sharing real time activities with friends, family and colleagues through online social networks like Twitter and Facebook. If you are one among those millions, be aware that there may be some other parties that find your tweets fascinating, too … such as your local burglar. Recently, an active social networker Twittered about his trip only to find his home had been burglarized while he was away. While this could be coincidence, the victim thinks that it might be related to his public postings – and the news media seems to think so too – see a newsclip about the robbery.
There are likely to be many more reports of this incident since it is being heavily tweeted and it seems to have piqued the “mainstream” media’s interest, too. Although the media likes to hype stories about crimes related to online activity, these types of opportunistic crimes have been going on long before social networks existed. Wiley burglars are often known to target funeral goers based on obituaries printed in newspapers or after seeing families pack the car for a trip. With basic precautions, social networking may be no more unsafe than other “real world” activities. In fact, increasingly, social networks are being harnessed by citizens and police departments to help solve crimes.
So while this incident shouldn’t be blow out of proportion, it should serve as a cautionary tale of the potential downside of real-time transparency in social networks – particularly if you’ve attracted a following of people that you don’t know very well – or at all. Take sensible precautions and think twice about what and when you share – and with whom.
It’s also a wise to take home security precautions when you plan to be away on vacation – there are definite steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of your being victimized. And while nothing can take away the feeling of violation that happens after a burglary, being insured properly can help you to financially recover from a loss. If you have work equipment, antiques, or valuable collections, talk to your insurance agent about whether you need an endorsement or a rider to expand the coverage limits of your existing policy.