New Year's thieves

December 31, 2012

Big spending Brits are putting themselves at increased risk of burglary thanks to a growing love affair with social media.

With some reports suggesting £3 billion* has already been spent in the post-Christmas sales, a worrying 13 per cent of people post details of things they have bought or been given as gifts on websites such as Facebook, giving potential thieves details of what can be stolen alongside clues at to where it can be stolen from.

And with tonight being the biggest party night of the year, revellers are being warned that they could be putting themselves at risk of burglary by posting details of where and when they are out enjoying themselves.

James Holland, Managing Director of The Co-operative Electrical – who carried out the research**, said: “Alarmingly, our research shows that 15 per cent of people allow their profiles to be viewed by anyone, rising to 21 per cent amongst men, whilst 5 per cent admit they don’t know the majority of their ‘friends’ online. 

“With as many as one in five internet users having virtually no privacy settings in place, savvy thieves can use basic details to discover where you live within a few clicks.  If you post that you are out for New Year’s Eve it’s a green light to a burglar.”

The Co-operative Electrical’s research shows that three in five people now use social networking websites, with more than two thirds of people updating their status to share their whereabouts.

In addition, 14 per cent ‘check in’ via Facebook or Foursquare – which gives your location in real time – and there are concerns that this increasing trend will lead to a rise in burglaries as thieves use social media to identify whether a house is occupied.

To try and combat the problem, The Co-operative has provided simple social media advice that will help to protect their homes whilst they are out of the house this New Year.  This includes checking privacy settings and being wary of what they post.

40 per cent of social media users list where they live - rising to 52 per cent of 18 – 24 year olds - and 1 in 10 have their home address online.

Updating social media on the move is increasingly popular: 60 per cent of the UK’s population own smart phones – the highest per head of population anywhere in the world, whilst one in five own a tablet computer***.

38 per cent of people reveal when they go on holiday or for a weekend away, whilst 28 per cent give details of when they are on a night out.

77 per cent of 18 – 24 year olds use social media, and are more familiar with security settings, with only three per cent of this age group unaware of how to enable their privacy settings, rising to eight per cent amongst all other age groups.

Electronic gadgets loving Brits spent an average of £1,000 each on technology in 2012: almost half of Brits (48%) bought smartphones, 22% mobile phones, 28% a tablet and 18% an e-reader in 2012****.

According to the Association of British Insurers, in 2011 claims totalled £35m for December 2011 as a result of 23,000 burglary claims during the month.  An analysis of 20,000 home theft cases by The Co-operative Insurance shows that the cost of claims increases between November and February.

Carl Burton, Home Insurance Manager at The Co-operative Insurance, said: "A common sense approach when using social networking websites is key. You have to ask yourself ‘would I be happy to divulge this information normally?’ If not, you shouldn’t make people aware of it online."

SOCIAL MEDIA CRIME PREVENTION ADVICE

  • Use privacy settings to prevent people outside your network from searching updates relating to holidays or when you’re likely to be away from home.
  • Think about who is already in your network, do you know each person well enough to trust them?
  • If in doubt, use features like Facebook Groups to limit information to people within your closest circle of friends.
  • Be wary of using location-based updates, for example Foursquare or checking in with Facebook, these will highlight that your home is likely to be empty.
  • Make details about where you live less specific, for example use the name of a city rather than a small town or village.  The more specific your location, the easier it is to check the addresses of people with your surname.
  • If updating about how much you’re looking forward to your trip, try and be non-specific about when you’re planning to be away.
  • Update friends with details of nights out after, rather than during, the time you are away from home.
     

* http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20849308

** Research of 2,000 respondents conducted by 72 Point

*** Ofcom, UK a nation of high-tech TV lovers, 13 December 2012

**** U-Switch, Tech-tastic Brits spent £42 billion on mobiles, tablets, apps and downloads in 2012, 11 December 2012