Don't let a criminal gain access to your private address through popular social media and smartphone apps.
Smartphone apps that work by pinpointing the users’ locations have become a big part of our lives as social media becomes more and more intertwined with everyday life. Using devices to “check in” at different places, like a coffee shop, retail location or an airport, is common practice for some, but questions remain.
Is it wise to practice these kinds of behaviors? Can it actually be dangerous? These days, the reality is, using a location-based app can quickly turn a fun moment into a devastating one. Burglars are now not only physically casing neighborhoods, but they're casing social media too.
When it comes to social media, it's not hard for a criminal to piece together critical information on a target. Think about your social media presence for a moment — would it be relatively easy for someone to gather your name, address, current location, occupation, financial history and habits from your social media profiles? The answer is often yes.
There are many examples of exactly this happening and some social media users, unfortunately, have paid the price. Following are some real-world cases of social media posts gone awry, and some tips to help protect your home and family.
The Instagram bandit
Just recently The New York Post reported that an alleged burglar, Arturo Galvan, was hanging out in coffee shops and malls, tracking the locations of women via Instagram. Police say he obtained the victim’s home addresses from geotagged Instagram photos.
According to the Orange County Register, Galvan targeted at least 33 women and stole more than $256,000 in electronics, jewelry and clothing. “Perhaps he would see a woman in a coffee shop, a mall or while out working,” Police told the OC Register. “He would then see if she geotagged the location.”
Police said he would then follow the internet trail and find photos the woman had taken at her home. If she didn’t disable the geotag, he could easily get her address, which is embedded in the photos.“It’s just very creepy,” Alli Rosser, a victim, told the OC Register. “It’s just one more reason to be careful on social media, especially if you’re a woman.”
A San Francisco family’s home was ransacked after a burglar was tipped off by social media. Lavern Cheatham and her family were on vacation in Las Vegas and her daughter was posting pictures to Facebook from Vegas.
Moments after a picture was uploaded, according to ABC News 7, a Facebook “friend” texted her about the vacation, making sure they were gone from the home. Then, according to police, a U-Haul truck pulled up to the family’s home and started loading up with TVs, art, beds and sofas.
Israel Hyman, a video producer with over 2,000 Twitter followers, tweeted that he and his wife were “preparing to head out of town,” that they had “another 10 hours of driving ahead” and finally that they “made it to Kansas City.” But, when he came home to Arizona, he found out that burglars made it to his house while he was gone. Upon arrival, Hyman realized that he was missing thousands of dollars worth of video equipment. “My wife thinks it could be a random thing, but I have my suspicions,” Hyman told the Associated Press. “They didn’t take any of our normal consumer electronics.” Hyman suspects that the burglar was tipped off by his tweets, and he learned a valuable lesson the hard way.
Tips to protect your home
All of these cases of location-based app and social media mistakes that led to burglaries are unfortunate, but it’s hard to blame the victims. According to AdWeek, 78 percent of burglars interviewed in a UK survey admitted to using social media platforms to select properties and plan burglaries. Below are 5 tips to increase the safety of your smartphone’s location-based apps, and in turn, increase your home security:1. Turn off the GPS function on your smartphone. This is crucial if you are going to be sharing images online. Refer to your phone’s manual in order to learn how to do this. 2. Check your privacy settings on social networks and photo sharing sites. It’s smart to limit your sharing to strictly friends and family. Don’t accept friend requests or follows from people you don’t know.3. Only let map and directions apps access your location data on your smartphone. Again, this can be done by referencing your phone’s manual and going into the settings.
4. Be aware of the photos you are sharing and when you are sharing them. Uploading photos directly from a vacation is dangerous, as we saw above. 5. And finally, realize that burglars will cross reference all of your social media profiles to find out information about you. If you’re going to protect one social media profile, make sure you protect them all.
Do you know someone who overshared online and paid the price? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
As of April 27, 2016, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.