Facebook Shenanigans

Okay, folks, it’s been all over the news in the last week that criminals are starting to watch the social networking sites to find out when you’re gone so that they can rob your house. I even saw a story online that a British website was warning people that their homeowners insurance could go up if they were careless about updating their status and wereabouts. The thought behind that would be that the social networking updates are putting them at bigger risk for home invasion and crime. There’s even been some press about specific sites that are tracking this, to bring attention to the problem. So are criminals really smart enough to target specific houses and watch them to find out the prime moment to strike?

To which I say….DUH!! Of course they are!  It doesn’t really take a lot of brains to follow a Twitter feed. And if they haven’t thought of it already…they certainly have, now that it’s been all over the news media!

When you put yourself out there on the web, you’re taking a risk. I know, I’m taking one too. But, here’s the thing…I am trying to be careful as to what I post online. I’ve alway been careful about what I post online, because of my job. I’ve had a few moments with my job that weirded me out a bit. And no, I’m not going into detail about what they were…other than to say that it was another reminder that I do have to be careful about what I say and what I do in public, for safety reasons.

But just because I have a job that gives me a reason to be cautious, doesn’t mean that other people with different jobs shouldn’t worry about it. Everyone’s got loved ones and/or kids, or pets that are precious to us (some are even worth serious money). We’ve got family heirlooms and possessions which might not be worth a lot on the resale market, but they’re OURS and we don’t want people to take them, destroy them, or damage them.

So here’s a bit of advice for everyone. If you’re going out of town, don’t post it, especially if your house will be empty while you’re gone. Don’t tell everyone you just went out for a hamburger…let us know how good it was when you get home. Be careful identifying ways for criminals to target you online. It’s about common sense. If there’s something you want to communicate with someone that involves that kind of information, it’s why God invented the private message. And email. And the phone. Or, and this is just a stretch, a simple letter in the mail. I don’t really need to know when you’re visiting Aunt Mabel back home while you’re there…let me know how she’s doing after you get back. Same goes for the sushi run, or the trip to the gym. Unless we have plans to meet…which we’ve likely already worked out ahead of time…I don’t need to know where you’re at rightthissecond.

I’m going to do the same. I’m still making travel plans for conferences and vacations. I’m still lining up house sitters and cat sitters and mail picker uppers for those trips for the 2010 calendar year. I am not planning to post much about where I’m at while I’m there. And if I do inadvertently post about something that lets you know that I’m out of town, let me put the following information out there.

1) Only three people have keys to my house. I’m not telling you who they are. Chances are good that if I’m out of town one of them is staying at my house while I’m gone. The cat does better at my house than being boarded by a kennel, so it’s easier to get someone to just stay at my house. Therefore, just because I’m not home doesn’t mean my house is empty.

2) I have great neighbors. They know exactly who has keys to my house. I generally tell them what’s going on so that they know who to expect to be coming and going into the house. They do not have a key. They do know my family, and know where I work, and how to contact my folks, my office, or me if something happens. And they really do watch like hawks. I’m blessed to have them. God bless great neighbors.

3) If you get into the house despite the fact that it probably isn’t empty, and past the neighbors despite how closely they watch, please keep in mind that I am the proud owner of GuardCat. While that’s not the same as a guard dog, she’s sly. She’ll trip you when you’re not looking. Wouldn’t that suck while you’re carrying an armload of stuff out of my house? Just saying.

To that end, I’m sad about the idea that I won’t be posting which conferences I will be attending. I will post my impressions of them when I return. The same goes for my vacations and personal trips.

It’s time for everyone to think about what they post before they post it. It’s just not safe to assume that no one’s going to take advantage of what we make public about our lives.