Ex-burglars have shared how they used unsuspecting victims' social media posts to plot break-ins.
According to Information Commissioner's Office, just a quarter of the UK’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok users have their channels set to private - making crimes even easier to commit.
Here's how you can stay safe and protect your home in a few simple steps.
How burglars target your social media posts
Even an innocent check-in on Facebook or the classic 'I’m on holiday' post can put you at higher risk.
Geo-Tagging and Check-Ins: Real-time notifications like check-in's show exactly where a person is. This key information is often shared on stories which tells the burglar that the tag happened within 24 hours. When pinpointing an exact address, whether it’s a restaurant or a football stadium, the location advertises how far away from home a person is and how long somebody has to break into the empty home.
I invited my friends over and they tagged themselves into my address. Weeks later I was burgled but nobody else on my road was. It seemed targeted and slick, as if they knew what to take and where to take it from."
- An account from one burglary victim.
Holiday Posts: On Instagram alone there are 16.3 million #airport uploads and a mammoth 152 million #holiday hashtags. You can also find 2.8 million posts relating to passports and 128k boarding pass pictures.
An ex-burglar said: “We used to keep tabs on when our followers were away from home. We could find out where they were going and how long for, to plan the best way of making a move.”
Insta-bragging: 86.7k people have used the Instagram hashtag '#bragging' to call out those flaunting an expensive lifestyle or product. Being boastful on Instagram and TikTok advertises the value of certain goods, giving burglars the exact knowledge of the content a property has and the belongings a person owns.
Manchester cryptocurrency trader Kieren Hamilton often posted photos of his lavish lifestyle before he was assaulted and burgled.
He said: “I got stabbed because of my Instagram presence, it looked like a massacre had happened when they left.”
New homes: New home posts on TikTok have over 506.4 million views at the time of writing. Each post shows either an address street sign, the layout of the property or even pictures of keys. Pictures of the keys can be easily replicated for access without breaking in.
One ex-burglar said: “It's easy to make a copy of a key from a picture, in some instances, you can literally take it to a locksmith and they’ll have one made for you pretty quickly.”
How to limit chances of a burglary
Based on conversations with former criminals and victims, Safe has created five essential rules for anyone active on social media.
Set To Private: Change any social media accounts to private and target posts specifically to your friends. This way only people you trust can see your content, rather than advertising to potential thieves you don’t know.
Decline Requests: Once your profile is private, do not accept any friend requests from people you don’t know or trust. If you don’t have close contacts with someone, don’t accept their requests as they could have your address, phone number or information to break into your home.
Turn Off GPS Tracking: Turn off the GPS tracking systems for each social media app when you leave the house so you can’t be tempted to tag yourself into locations. That way burglars won’t see if you’re on holiday or away from home.
Post In The Future: When posting an image of yourself travelling or away, do it whilst you’re at home and back from the journey. Security deterrents at the house will tell the thief that you are in the property, so they know to not risk trying whilst people are in.
Close-up's: When posting an image about a new product or home, try take a close up or just capture a small part of it. This type of photo won't give burglars a clear indication of your belongings or your property layout. Keep your content cryptic to not encourage a burglar to try.
Anthony Neary, managing director for safe.co.uk, said “There’s no denying social media is a vital part of our lives now. We all like to share our favourite moments and experiences from time to time, but it’s important to know that there is an element of risk in doing so.
"By speaking with burglars and victims, we were able to dissect the main areas of social media that assists criminals in their illegal activities. Follow the guidance above and be vigilant when posting to limit any chances of being burgled.”