Lancashire-based high street insurance expert, BP Insurance Brokers is warning residents and businesses that social media posts can be as much an invitation to burglars in the 21st century as leaving milk bottles on the doorstep once were a few decades ago.
BP Insurance Brokers, which has branches in Blackpool, Cleveleys, St Annes and Lancaster, is urging local social media users to think twice before posting anything that suggests they are away from their home and its valuables.
Whilst home insurance providers used to warn homeowners heading off on their holidays to remember to cancel the milk and newspapers, so crooks would not pick up clues about their absence from their property, it’s now social media that is dropping blatant hints.
In 2011, when 50 ex-burglars were interviewed, 78% of them said they checked Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare to pick out potential places to rob. 74% also used Google Street View, to get a feel for the property. Six years later, with more channels being fed with personal news, the problem is even greater.
Increasingly, thieves are monitoring social media to help select properties to target and this need not just be because people have given away the fact that they are on holiday. Burglaries have also occurred when status updates have highlighted homeowners being out for the evening. It only takes two minutes, on average, to break into a property and ten minutes to seize valuables and leave, so broadcasting where you are and what you are doing can be an expensive mistake.
“Avid social media users can’t wait to share pictures of themselves in the sun, visiting new places and sitting at the airport,” says BP Insurance Brokers’ managing director, Barry Pimlott. “In fact, if Facebook users with a decent-sized network head to their feed right now, I would expect they would find at least one message from a ‘friend’ that gives away the fact that they are not at home.
“The issue is twofold. Firstly, nothing is truly private on social networks and secondly, although you may have made people ‘friends’, you may not have seen them since your school days, or even ever known them at all. When posting your whereabouts on your networks, you are placing enormous trust in people, which is sometimes betrayed. “
Whilst being burgled and losing precious valuables and memories is hard enough, worse could happen. Insurers are now also monitoring the social networks of those making insurance claims following burglary. Insurance claims are settled on the basis of the claimant having taken ‘reasonable care’ to protect their property, which is why leaving windows open and doors unlocked has led to claims being declined in the past. Now, social media posts are, in some cases, being viewed as negligence and claims could be declined, if you explicitly broadcast your absence from your property.