BRIDGEWATER – Smartphones, digital cameras, and the increase in social media sites all make it easier to share information with “friends” and “followers.” During the holiday season, Allstate New Jersey Insurance Company warns consumers that growing comfort with and trust in social media may increase the risk of theft due to information shared.
Whether it’s “check ins” using geo-location services on the latest shopping spree, travel plan updates, or even photos uploaded while at a holiday party, people may be unknowingly giving today’s “digital thieves” greater insight into their lives. Status updates or recent tweets might alert thieves to the contents of your car’s trunk, times you’re away from home, and even the holiday gifts hiding in your closet.
“While social media sites can be great ways to connect with those you care about, if you aren’t careful they can become treasure troves for burglars,” said Danny Jovic, Allstate New Jersey spokesperson. “As social networks continue to increase in popularity, so does the unprecedented amount of personal information released for public consumption. Posting about travel, shopping, and new gifts tends to increase during the holiday season, but people should be mindful. You never know who might be watching.”
To help prevent theft, Allstate New Jersey Insurance Company recommends considering the following precautions when using social media this holiday season:
- Turn off automatic locating functions. Most social media sites with geo-location and tracking functionalities have options to turn them off.
- Review your privacy settings. Make sure you understand who you are broadcasting your information to each time you post. If you are not comfortable with what people can see about you, change your settings.
- Delay uploading pictures until returning home. Thieves may be able to view details about smart phone pictures, such as where the picture was taken and at what time. Posting pictures in real time lets others know you’re not at home.
- Be aware of photo and video backgrounds. Avoid making videos that reveal house numbers, identifying auto or other information telling others exactly where you live.
- Be careful of where you “check in.” If checking in at various locations as you shop or dine, use precaution. You may be alerting a thief to goodies in your car’s trunk. Consider checking-in as you leave or at every other location.
- @SafetyTip: Keep your #travel plans offline. Although it may be hard not to start the long-awaited vacation countdown or brag to friends with a photo from the beach, this information also can tell thieves when you’re away. Save the vacation details for your return.
- If you must update, don’t be specific. If you stop updating while on vacation, will friends and followers immediately fear the worst and contact the authorities? If so, just post a quick update that says you’ll be offline for a while.
- Maintain that lived-in look. While traveling, take precautions to deter burglars. Ask a neighbor to park in your driveway, stop paper delivery, set-up timers for household lights, and lock up.
- Keep expensive gifts quiet. Despite excitement about the new tablet or gaming system received this year, resist the temptation to post updates about any big ticket items new to the household. Instead, update your home inventory to include them.
- Don’t provide personal information. Never post your home address or birth year on a social networking site, regardless of your privacy settings. And, don’t assume that because your information isn’t online that a thief can’t find you or make you vulnerable to identity theft.
Many people aren’t aware of the information they may be inadvertently sharing when they post updates or images on social networking sites; information that could be good for bad people. By using a little extra caution and common sense, you can help keep your home, your car and your identity safe.
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