Do Facebook & Twitter Users Face a Higher Burglary Risk? (or just higher premiums)

facebook_twitterThe Telegraph ran a story today about a recent report commissioned by UK Insurer Legal & General that suggests that the use of social media sites, particularly Twitter and Facebook, could increase the risk of burglary.

Of specific concern in the report is the fact that of the 2,000 social media users polled for the report, two-fifths of them admitted to posting specific details about their holiday plans or times away from home.

Michael Fraser, who stars in a BBC program called Beat the Burglar, is a former burglar himself and had this to say in the Telegraph article:

“They gain confidence by learning more about them, what they are likely to own and when they are likely to be out of the house.

“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.”

Of course, if a burglar wanted to see if you were actually home or not, they could just knock on the door.

If you have a monitored alarm with immediate response… you’re in pretty good shape.

In my experience, most crooks are not very industrious. If they were, they’d have a job. Most are drug addicts who are motivated by the need to score their next ‘hit’… which doesn’t leave a lot of time for planning out the perfect crime.

Instead, most burglars follow a very similar pattern… they will walk down a block, picking out homes that appear to be empty. Next, they will knock on the door to see if anyone is home. If there is no answer, they break in through the front door, go straight to the master bedroom, empty out the bedside table drawers and then into the closet.

Almost every burglar is looking for cash and things (like jewelry) that can be quickly turned into cash. It’s almost textbook. (You can read more about how the typical residential burglary happens by clicking here).

The Telegraph article goes on to explain why the Insurers say they are concerned about social media use:

“Our research shows that 41 per cent of people are divulging personal and private information to complete strangers on Facebook, such as their date of birth, where they worked, where they lived and what they were doing,” he said. “People are boasting about how they are having a fantastic time on a beach in Mexico on a webpage that has their home address.

“Criminals who put together the jigsaw can use it for identity theft or burglary. It is just as dangerous as leaving your windows or doors open at home.”

The report also found that almost half were unconcerned about social networking security. In an experiment, 100 friend requests were issued to random stranger. Nine out of 10 Twitter users accepted the stranger as a friend, with more than one in 10 Facebook users.

While posting that kind of specific information certainly won’t increase your security, it’s a long ways away from posing the same kind of risk as leaving your doors or windows open.

People should be cautious… but not paranoid.

Here’s the quote from the article that makes the most sense to me…

Privacy groups however have said insurance companies will simply use social networking sites to increase premiums.

Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, told The Daily Mail: “This is a disgraceful attempt to leverage yet more from customers.”

Is it a good idea to let the whole world know the specifics of your vacation plans on Twitter? Definitely not. Does it create enough of a new risk to warrant an Insurance premium increase? I don’t think so.

Home security is mostly common sense… it’s the really basic stuff that ends up having the most impact. It’s not so much about trying to imagine what you would do if you were a burglar, it’s about understanding how burglary actually happens in reality.

Ensuring that you remember to arm your alarm, five-minute proof your most valuable possessions and ensure that you’ve got someone to pick up your papers & mail while you’re away will ensure that you’re protected against the vast majority of would-be burglars… with or without a Facebook or Twitter profile.

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