Burglary really has entered the 21st century. This great story from Digital Trends highlights a new tool being used by burglars: social networks.

According to the study discussed in the story, around 15 percent of Americans publicize their locations on social network sites. Even more frightening is the fact that 78 percent of ex-burglars that participated in the study admitted to checking social networks in order to identify empty houses.

Social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, have given people unprecedented access to convenient communication. But this convenience comes at a cost. With the increased proliferation of online communication, people have demonstrated a remarkable willingness to share even the smallest detail of their lives with loose acquaintances and strangers.

While access to users’ profiles is typically limited, default settings can often leak personal information into the public domain. For the most part, the publically available details about your life are harmless, like your favorite movies or the personal quotes listed on your profile. Every once in a while, however, key personal details get out. More often than not, it’s users themselves that are responsible for giving away security information.

A simple status update to your friends and family about your upcoming vacation can be a signal to burglars that your home will be empty for a long period of time. Follow these tips for protecting your home from burglars while you play Farmville!

Social Network Security Tips

  • Wait until after your vacation to tell your social network! The people that need to know about your vacation probably need to be informed in person or over the phone.
  • Keep knowledge of your work schedule limited to friends and family. Most burglaries occur in daylight hours between 6am and 6pm.
  • Don’t accept every friend request! Only give friends and family access to your profile. Though reconnecting with old friends from high school can be fun, it’s not worth the risk of adding a new friend when you have no idea who that person is…
  • For security reasons, make sure your social network is a place where you discuss things you’ve already done and not plan on doing.

Interesting Statistics from Social Networking and Burglary Study

  • 78 percent of burglars use Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare to find potential targets.
  • 74 percent of burglars use Google Street to scout potential targets before visiting the location in person.
  • Burglars often attempt to rob the same residence multiple times as 80 percent of first attempts to break into a home are unsuccessful. Many of the burglars that participated in the study claimed they usually required multiple trips to a single residence in order to successfully rob it.