Most people know better than to advertise they are going away on vacation. Putting up a giant banner in front of your house, indicating the house is empty, is something we just wouldn’t do. Most of us are also smart enough not to post our exact whereabouts on Facebook, Instagram and the like. The operative word is ‘most’, especially kids who share information with their friends.
A simple comment on social media like, ‘Having a wonderful day at the cottage’ is enough to tell human web crawlers that your house is empty. Social media now utilize geotag technology, which tells the world where you are. When you set up an account, the default is sharing your location details. This lets you know where your photos were taken and tells your friends where you are currently dining. Truth be told, restaurants and stores pay social media to have your visit appear on their sites. In other words, if you visit ABC restaurant and you check your Facebook feed, it will automatically post that ‘Jon is at ABC restaurant in Chicago’. It’s easy to turn this feature off, but I’m always surprised how many people do not.
Another issue is long term parking. Recently someone broke into a car parked at the airport and rifled through the glove compartment looking for, and finding, the registration slip. These thieves actually drove the people’s car to their home and robbed it. The message here is simple; if you plan to leave your car in long-term parking, do not leave the registration or insurance information in the vehicle.
In a similar case, thieves broke into a car parked at the airport, and noted the address on the registration. They then took the garage door opener, drove to the people’s house, opened the garage and made their way into the house. Think twice about leaving your openers in the car when you park at airports.
Modern technology is designed to assist us in our daily lives and our careers. Unfortunately it also assists criminals. I am amazed how many people log their home address on their automobile’s GPS. Anyone who breaks into your car (and yes it does happen) simply has to start the car, hit the home button on the GPS and it will take them directly to your house.
Recently this happened to a couple and the thieves took it one step further. They broke into the vehicle while it was parked outside a restaurant. The GPS told them what time the people arrived at the restaurant, so the thieves knew how much time they had before the people finished their meal. They drove the car to the unsuspecting diner’s house, stole jewellery and small objects, returned the car and parked it in the same spot. They were caught because of a house cam.
Smart phones have long been a topic of security, and 60% of owners do not have a lock on their phones. Recently a woman’s purse was stolen, which contained her phone, wallet and credit cards. The lady found a pay phone and called her husband. She explained what had happened, and the husband went into shock. He told her he received a text from her 20 minutes ago, stating she had forgotten her PIN number and couldn’t access the bank machine. Naturally the husband gave her the secret code, not realizing it was the thief who was texting. The couple rushed to the bank, but all their money had already been withdrawn.
The first thing the thieves did after stealing the purse was to go to the contact list, choose the one (in this case) marked ‘hubby’ and send him a text requesting the pin. The moral here is, never list pet names or relationships in your contact information, and put a lock on your phone. I would take it one step further and suggest that if anyone, no matter whom, asked you for sensitive information, have them call you.
One last incident worth noting was a lady who went shopping at the local grocery store. She left her purse in the child seat section of the buggy and reached for a shelf. Instantly, her purse was gone. She immediately went to mall security and reported the incident. Fortunately her car keys were in her coat pocket so she drove home. She no sooner stepped into her house when mall security called her, explaining they found her purse, and although it seemed there was no money in it, her documentation was there. Happily the lady rushed back to the supermarket, but was told security had not telephoned her. Confused she returned home, only to find her house had been broken into. By luring her out of the house the thieves knew exactly how long it would take her to drive to the mall and back.
You will never be able to counter every single confidence scheme out there, but when it comes to technology, appreciate how much information is stored on your devices. Remember that what you put out there may be intended for friends, but anyone can read this stuff. Engage the lock feature on your cell phone screens, and always lock the screen when you are finished using it. Be more than just tech-savvy, become tech-safe.