Police: You're Telling Criminals, 'We're Not Home'

11:18 PM, Oct 29, 2012   |    comments
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  • Courtesy Getty Images.

Greensboro, NC -- How much is too much when it comes to what we share on social media?

Thanks to Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, we know what's happening in the world at any given moment. We stay in touch with friends and relatives. But sometimes too much information -- TMI -- can get us into a whole lot of trouble.

Most of us can admit, we've posted on Facebook or Tweeted a picture of vacation while we were on vacation. What you might not have realized was you told anyone who wanted to break into your home that it's a good time to do it.

"They're opening themselves up to be a victim," said Officer S.R. Little with the Greensboro Police Department. "When we click the check-in page on our phones, or on Facebook, you're pretty much telling the person, 'Hey, I'm out of town or at this location, I'm not at home'."

Let's start with your safety. Little said you're essentially giving criminals the best tip they can get.

She added that if you take pictures on your smart phone, that's a double whammy. The camera embeds GPS data in every one of them.

"Those pictures, the properties can be manipulated and they can find out your home address through that," said Little.

Don't believe it? Websites like Pleaserobme.com will show you everywhere you've been, whether you've checked in for yourself or a friend has tagged you.

"When you're entertaining people in your home, we, my husband and I have a 'no check-in' policy. We tell every single person that comes through our door, that if you have location services on Twitter activated, do not take a photograph of us in our home, and do not share it," said Danielle Hatfield, social media guru and owner of Experience Farm.

Hatfield has a few check-in rules to live by.

"Check in when you're leaving, not when you first get there, especially if you're there alone," said Hatfield. "Don't check in at home. Don't check in at your child's school. Don't check in at work."

Your safety is not the only reason you need to think before you post or tweet. Your job is another reason.

"It's very important to make sure that whatever you say online, always be aware that someone is always watching, someone is listening, and that someone is very likely your employer," said Hatfield.

There's a fine line between our public and private lives. Your employer probably doesn't want to see you taking the day off to stay at home with your sick dog. And they certainly don't want to see you rant about how much you hate your job on Facebook.

But Hatfield said, if you're on the job hunt, you need to reel it in even more.

"Wherever you are online, that is where employers are looking for your history. And regardless of the resume that you've sent to them, they're going to be looking at your Twitter, at your Facebook, at your LinkedIn," said Hatfield. "Another thing employers actually consider is, the fact that, if you're so willing to share freely, things from your personal life, what would you share about their professional establishment?"

And are you sharing things that not one of your 800 closest friends needs to know?

"We use, a lot of times, social media as a stream of consciousness. We've become more comfortable," said Hatfield. "If I'm doing laundry and I can't find a sock, I highly doubt any one of my friends or family really care about the fact that I can't find a sock."

And reality check -- the majority of your friends likely do not want to read about that nasty rash you got from dinner, or that your dog just lifted it's leg on your clean laundry.

"With everything that you do online, just be aware, not only is your employer watching, not only are your family and friends watching, and sometimes we can share a little bit too much, but there's one thing that will never forget what you've said online, and that's Google," said Hatfield.

Hatfield shared a few privacy tips to help you protect yourself.

-Make sure you don't have your "Tweet location" box checked in your Twitter settings. If you do, un-check it and click "delete all location information".

-If you don't want to use the location feature on Facebook, and you don't want other people disclosing your location either, be sure to turn on the "Timeline Review" feature, so you can screen any tag before it appears on your timeline.

-And make sure the "Location Services" feature on your smart phone is turned "off", so any picture you take don't give away your location.

WFMY News 2

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