Don’t Become the Next Victim of a Facebook Burglary

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We’ve all heard the warnings about cyber stalkers and online predators.

But Facebook could put your family at risk in other ways too.

The news has recently been filled with stories of homes that were burglarized after their owners posted Facebook messages about going out for the evening or being away on vacation.

One couple in Albany updated their Facebook status to say they were attending a concert that night in a nearby city. They returned to find their plasma television, electronics, and other valuables gone. In New Hampshire, police recently arrested a burglary ring that targeted victims based on postings on social networking sites that they were away from their homes.

Here are some ways to make sure this doesn’t happen to you and your family:

■ Be careful about what you post. Don’t let the world know you are going on a vacation or will be gone the whole night. As a general rule, try to avoid posting updates on where you are if you are away from home. Saying you are out shopping, seeing a movie, or dining out lets robbers know they will find a guaranteed empty home.

■ Not every Facebook friend is a real friend. Be especially cautious about posting messages that can be seen be “friends” who might be distant acquaintances, friends of friends, and other people you don’t actually know.

■ Choose your friends wisely. Most people don’t think twice about clicking “approve” on friend requests. In the case of the Albany couple, the alleged robber was actually a Facebook friend.

■ Take advantage of Facebook features to protect yourself. Create lists of close friends and relatives and separate lists of acquaintances and other people whom you cannot trust. Restrict who can see your messages by using the publisher privacy control feature.

■ Even pictures of your home could put you at risk. Even posting pictures that show the interior of your home could be used by a burglar or other criminal to break in. A risk control specialist was recently reviewing a family’s Facebook profiles and was able to develop a layout of the home’s blueprint based on the pictures they had posted. Think about what could happen if that information fell into the wrong hands.

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