The explosion of social media has enabled the almost instantaneous spread of information. Apps like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram—among others—are valuable tools for mobilizing thoughts and actions. They allow people to maintain networks and associations that might otherwise be lost. However, it is not without its dangers.
Social media has now existed long enough for police to analyze its data. After they are caught, many criminals share how social media played a role. In fact, over 75% of convicted burglars believe social media is used to find targets. The following are the three most common property crimes, how social media enables them, and how to protect yourself.
Burglary is the unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or theft. The most common example is when someone enters a home or business with the intention of robbing them. Nearly four out of five burglars choose their victims using clues from social media.
When you post a picture of your expensive electronics, gun collection, or fancy jewelry, you are only making yourself a target. Depending on your security settings, the location settings from your cell phone may even indicate where you live. Add a post about how excited you are for your weeklong vacation coming up on Saturday and you’ve shown a burglar what to steal, where to get it, and when your house will be empty. How are you supposed to enjoy your trip knowing what an easy target you’ve made yourself?
How to Protect Yourself
The good news is there are simple ways to minimize your risk of being a target. Invest in at least a basic alarm system to ensure your house is always being monitored by professionals. In addition to an alarm system, follow these social media rules:
- Post pictures from your vacations after you’ve returned home. If you do it before or during, you’re advertising the vacancy of your home.
- Change your privacy settings. Keep all of your pictures and posts private and don’t accept invitations from people you don’t know and trust.
- Minimize the details you share. Don’t offer more information than is necessary. When you share details about your life, leave out when, where, and how long your activities are.
By following those rules, you minimize your chances of becoming a target. Take proper care of your home so you don’t become a crime of opportunity by doing the following:
- Lock doors and windows when you are away from home.
- Keep valuables out of plain sight. Put things away.
- Have someone you trust collect mail and packages while you are away so they don’t build up.
- Never share your garage code or hide keys in obvious places like under a door mat.
Motor Vehicle Theft
This is obviously the theft or attempted theft of a motor vehicle such as a car, motorcycle, or trailer. This is a relatively common crime in the most dangerous cities in the U.S. The outline for stealing a car is similar to robbing a home; thieves identify what they want to steal and when is the best time. The more predictable your parking patterns are, the easier a target you become.
How to Protect Yourself
When you post pictures of your new ride or its impressive stereo system, you are giving opportunistic criminals ideas. Follow your instincts when you are parking your car or leaving it for extended periods of time. Avoid dark places and look for highly trafficked areas where thieves won’t be able to take their time. Supplement your instincts with these tips:
- Change your routine frequently. Avoid parking in the same place every time you run an errand. If you don’t have an established pattern then thieves won’t be able to reliably plan on when to steal your car.
- Don’t post pictures of your car in front of your house. You don’t want people to know where they can find your parked car every night.
- Park in a garage as often as you can. That may mean you need to clean out a lot of your stuff or find a new place to store it but it’s worth it. Out of sight and out of mind. Remove your car from even being a temptation for thieves.
- Keep valuables hidden so nobody walks by and sees a reason to break in.
Larceny is the theft of personal property such as a wallet or a bicycle. A common example of this is when someone steals a brand-new cellphone. Property crime was the top reported criminal act in 2016.
How to Protect Yourself
The first step for a potential thief is identifying something to steal. Don’t make it easy for them. Avoid posting pictures of anything worth stealing. Keep your valuable possessions private. Stay alert and aware of your surroundings by following these guidelines:
- Walk swiftly and with a purpose. Don’t casually stroll as you make your way through crowded areas.
- Keep your wallet or purse out of sight as much as possible. Keep them close to you and maintain a firm grip. Limit the number of valuable things you keep on you. Only take what you are going to use.
- Avoid texting and walking or listening to headphones as you travel. Eliminate distractions and analyze your surroundings every few minutes.
- Avoid posting routes where you run or walk. Don’t advertise when you will be outside alone.
Burglars and thieves are becoming more resourceful. If you make yourself a more difficult target, thieves will move on. Follow these tips to protect yourself.