The Good With the Bad
Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, blogs, message boards, and other social media platforms are great ways to connect with large groups of people. Being transparent about who you are and what you do has many advantages. Transparency generates trust. It builds relationships. It also lures criminals to you. Identifying the potential dangers and how to protect yourself, your home and your family, is not difficult and may just keep you from becoming the latest victim.
Dangers of Over-sharing
Everyone knows if you post enough confidential information to the Web, someone will eventually steal your identity. Thieves will do whatever they can to get your personally identifiable information. As we become wiser, thieves become more cunning. What most people do not know is that even playing an online game with your friends or writing about your vacation may be laying out the welcome mat to the latest round of online thieves. Last month Israel Hyman, (Twitter handle @IzzyVideo) wrote on Twitter that he and his family vacationing in Kansas City. He also set up his Twitter account to automatically update his Facebook status with tales of Cowtown adventure. After his vacation, Mr. Hyman and his family returned home to Arizona only to find their home burglarized, with thousands of dollars of video and computer equipment in the hands of social networking-savvy thieves.
How Did It Happen?
In addition to Mr. Hyman’s 2000+ Twitter followers, anyone could have logged onto Twitter to check his latest comments to see that he was out of state. Armed with the knowledge of your absence, thieves use publicly available online resources to quickly locate your empty house. A name, a cell phone number, a Web site address (which they can check for contact information) or a picture is all they need to connect your “I’m on vacation” post with a Google Map to your home. So what can you do?
Think Before You Post
The solution is not to stop interacting online. The solution is simply to think before you post. Refrain from posting outside your closest network of friends things like: “I’m home alone” or “I’m working late.” Also, continue to post while on vacation. Posts from your friends, such as “Has anyone heard from Jane? She has not posted for days” are cues that your home may be vacant.
Stay in Touch
Noone can keep track of every scam. If you are online, your network of contacts is actually your best defense against the latest greatest online con. More than likely, someone in your network will be the first to alert you to potential threats and advise you how to protect yourself. If you are a real glutton for punishment, and need all the latest information about cyberlaw and online threats, feel free to follow me on Twitter @BrettTrout