By Dep. Steve Toly, CV Sheriff’s Station
What could possibly be wrong with social media? It’s fantastic! It’s modern, it’s engaging, it’s entertaining, and fun. We have progressed to the point where it almost seems odd to not be involved with social media in some form. Everyone from professional athletes to little kids are using social media for fun and profit. In this day and age no one wants to be perceived as anti-social – it’s the kiss of death. So what’s the deal?
I’m going to take this opportunity to fill you in on law enforcement’s perspective on all this and specifically how it relates to residential burglaries, identity thefts and other crimes.
Like anything else in life, do some homework and know what you’re getting into. The strengths and weaknesses of social media can be small and seem inconsequential, but can have a profound effect on your life and safety.
If you don’t know yet, social media is web or media based technologies used to turn communication into interactive dialog … more or less. The main mistake most people make is giving up too much personal information. Social media can be a great tool or nothing more than a giant billboard with all your personal information out there for over 500 million people to access. Social media programs can create a feeling of security that doesn’t really exist … remember that at all times. Never give out details of your life that you wouldn’t want a stranger to know.
People post things like vacation dates and itineraries with updates from locations all over the globe. Your friends will love it, and so do people who want to break into your house. They know you’re not home; you’ve already posted it and confirmed your absence with a timed update from New York or on a cruise … what could be more helpful to a burglar? If they get into your pictures, they may already have a shopping list of things that they are going to take.
People often post pictures that can reveal the interior of their home complete with potential weak access points, alarm systems, motion detectors, and door lock types or even if they own a dog. Some photos are embedded with GPS locations that bad guys can track. The list goes on, but you get the idea.
Keep in mind there are even bad guy sites that will alert them when you update to a status other than your home. Not good.
Giving up too much information doesn’t just stop at your social life and home. You don’t want people knowing too much about your family either. You don’t want people to know when your kids have sports practice, are home alone, or even birthdays, for example. Kids will post details that they don’t understand can be dangerous, so it’s up to parents to monitor what their children are posting.
Most people have security precautions in place and that’s great, but in no way is it foolproof. You would be shocked to find out how many crimes are committed by “friends of friends,” the kid down the street, the classmate or the casual acquaintance, etc.
The point of this article is to “be aware.” Think about these things now and think about how a bad guy can exploit them. Change things to protect yourself and never give up too many details that a stranger doesn’t need to know. Take charge of your own person security and always error on the side of caution. Have fun but make sure it’s safe fun.
Note by CV Captain Dave Silverspare: Dep. Steven Toly is a 21-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and graciously volunteered to write this article after we suspected that at least one local residential burglary was directly related to an on-going vacation posted on a media site.