Are you telling burglars when to strike?

Emma Woollacott
Burglar trying to get into house
Burglar trying to get into house

You've cancelled the milk and the newspapers, you've asked a neighbour to tidy up the post. But you may still be leaving an invitation to burglars when you go away.

High street insurance firm BP Insurance Brokers is reminding holidaymakers that social media posts can be a complete giveaway that your home is empty.

"Avid social media users can't wait to share pictures of themselves in the sun, visiting new places and sitting at the airport," says BP Insurance Brokers' managing director, Barry Pimlott.

"In fact, if Facebook users with a decent-sized network head to their feed right now, I would expect they would find at least one message from a 'friend' that gives away the fact that they are not at home."

In 2011, when 50 ex-burglars were interviewed, 78% of them said they checked Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare to pick out potential places to rob. Three quarters also used Google Street View, to get a feel for the property.

See also: Why burglary victims are targeted again - several times

See also: Revealed: the UK's burglary claim hotspots

And it's not just when you're heading off to the sun that you should be careful: there have been numerous burglaries caused by status updates that highlighted when the victims were out for the evening.

"The issue is twofold. Firstly, nothing is truly private on social networks and secondly, although you may have made people 'friends', you may not have seen them since your school days, or even ever known them at all," points out Pimlott.

"When posting your whereabouts on your networks, you are placing enormous trust in people, which is sometimes betrayed."

Worst of all, insurers are now monitoring the social networks of those making insurance claims following a burglary. And because you're required to have taken 'reasonable care' to protect your property, you may have your claim refused if you've told the world that you're going to be out.

So how can you make sure you're not giving too away?

1. Only post holiday snaps once you've returned home.
2. Avoid posting real-time pictures of nights or days out.
3. Review privacy settings and lists of friends.
4. Don't post pictures of highly valuable possessions.
5. Delete any trail thieves could follow in past posts, for example 'we always go away on...'
6. Take extra care on birthdays and anniversaries, when a thief might expect you to be out.
7. Don't reveal regular habits, such as attending a weekly gym class or working late certain nights of the week.
8. Make sure doors and windows are locked and secured when you are away, and that these locks are robust.
9. Consider fitting an alarm - thieves are deterred by these.
10. Invest in measures such as security lights, curtain pullers and even dog barking gadgets.