As millions of people access social media websites, the increasing flow of online private information has exposed individuals to the dangers of identity theft.
A survey last year of 50 former criminals by the insurance company More Than found that 68% conducted considerable research on a target’s daily routine before attempting to steal.
Over 12% said they had used social networking sites to do their research. Richard Taylor, a former burglar told The Telegraph last year, “In the old days you could buy information from a postman or from a milkman, about who was away on holiday. Now people are online giving you updates about going to the airport, about sipping their coffee, about everything.”
Sensing the rising risk facing home owners, insurance companies are predicted to consider individual online activity when pricing risk and assessing claims.
Some mistakes people make on Facebook that could affect their home insurance include;
1. Posting personal information like home addresses and phone numbers
Google maps has made it very easy for criminals to identify houses and plan burglaries, with the home features, entries and exits all available for public view.
“Criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their information gathering, even using Google Earth and Streetview to plan their burglaries with military precision,” Darren Black, a leading home insurance expert told The Telegraph.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if insurance providers consider these in their pricing of an individual’s risk. We could see rises of up to 10% for people who use these sites,” he said.
2. Posting details of holidays
Some insurance companies have started to deny burglary claims if wealthy customers are found to have made details of holiday dates publicly accessible. Insurance company Hiscox recently told The Sunday Times that it does not insure celebrities who publish their holiday details and dates in magazines like Hello and OK.
It is considering extending this policy to regular homeowners who similarly post details on public forums.
While this policy stance is far from being enacted, major insurance companies have begun urging customers to exercise caution when posting details of when they are leaving home.
A Dutch website called pleaserobme.com, gives regular updates of people who have just left their house. It does this by identifying users who regularly exchange their precise location information. People’s movements are searchable by city or by their Twitter username.
While many have criticised the site for becoming a resource for burglars, the founders cite that they wish to raise awareness of the dangers of the reckless use of social networking.
3. Profile privacy and unknown friends
Facebook currently has advanced privacy settings which restrict public view of certain portions of their profile. However, not many users have the feature activated. With the mix of public and private information, details like residential addresses, pictures of the interiors and the exteriors of homes are easily accessible.
More importantly, people should exercise caution when adding friends. By adding strangers, they circumvent the security settings and place themselves in a higher risk of theft.
“On Facebook, people have complete control over the information they share and the people with whom they share it,” Sophy Silver, the UK Spokesman of Facebook told the financial website, thisismoney.co.uk.
“We encourage people to actively use their privacy settings, like per-object privacy on their status updates, to distinguish between information that is appropriate to share with close friends and family, and ideas and opinions that people may wish to share more broadly,” she added.
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