Although petty criminals are often thought of as a brainless bunch, a recent survey carried out by smart alarms provider, Verisure, has revealed that they are using more sophisticated techniques than ever to target their victims.
One such way is social media, with Kim Kardashian’s recent robbery in Paris a perfect example. Aomar Ait Khedache, the implicated 60-year-old thief behind the scheme, revealed to French police that his team knew “absolutely everything” about her trip thanks to the reality star’s social media profiles.
While this robbery was undoubtedly on a larger scale than many, more and more criminals are using the same ‘surveillance’ techniques. This is backed up by a recent study by the insurance company, Admiral, which found that 25% of burglars now tag their target’s location when they travel. As a result, an innocent selfie in the airport celebrating your impending vacation could quickly turn into an open invite to your home while you’re away.
To stop you from becoming the next victim, we’ve rounded up three ways criminals use social media channels to spot a soft target, below:
1. Location Sharing
You’ve undoubtedly come across a post on your Facebook feed of a friend or family member ‘checking in’ to a certain location. Heck, you might have even done it yourself.
Although this might seem like a fun way of letting others know that you’re on a trip, it can play right into a criminal’s hands. It’s one of the reasons why we recommend that you shouldn’t accept a follow or a friend request from a person you don’t know, even if they appear to have one or two friends in common with you.
It’s also advisable to double-check your Facebook privacy settings to make sure that photos or status updates you share are available to view by ‘friends only’. This way, you won’t be broadcasting to the entire world that you’re on vacation.
2. Photo Data
You may not realize it, but every time you take a picture on your smartphone, information about when and where it was taken is also stored at the same time. This is known as EXIF data.
It’s the reasons why your photo album is able to display pictures by date or location order.
Unfortunately, when we share our photos online, this information is also easily accessible to a thief via a quick right click on their mouse. That means if you’ve uploaded any photos while at home onto sites such as Tumblr or Google +, a burglar will quickly be able to work out your address.
The good news is that there are other social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, which automatically strip out any EXIF data when you upload photos onto their platform.
3. Reverse Image Searching
The phrase ‘reverse image searching’ may sound complicated, but in reality, it’s a simple process of finding out where else on the web a certain picture is posted. You can do this yourself on Google by simply clicking on the camera icon at the end of its search bar.
Criminals use this feature to find links between a person’s online footprint. For example, if you were to start a travel blog while you’re abroad, a thief may be able to reverse image search one of the photos inserted into a post to see if it had been shared elsewhere on another social profile.
They then can search for the username attached to that profile to try to find out the real name of the person the account belongs to. From there, a simple search of an online directory could reveal your home address.
Criminals are becoming more and more intelligent in using the latest cutting edge technology to steal from their victims. Be sure to protect yourself online by not falling foul of the tricks that we have revealed today and you will be thanking yourself tomorrow.