Stats show crooks check social media, Google Street View to plan robberies

Mike Wehner, Tecca

An easily-accessible service that lets everyone know where you are is a robber's dream come true, so it's no surprise that former burglars cite social media as a major tool in planning heists. But the actual statistics of just how many scope out their victims' digital lives may come as a shock. In a U.K.-based poll, a staggering 78% of vandals say they've used social networking sites to plan their moves ahead of time.

74% of convicted burglars admit that once they picked a target, they used services like Google Street View to get an up-close-and-personal look at the victim's home. Street View can provide high-resolution photos of millions of homes across the United States, offering robbers the ability to scope out a location without raising suspicion with a physical drive-by.

When planning a robbery, burglars often take to the web, using sites like Facebook to chose a victim — where key details about their everyday routines is on display. Users frequently post clues as to their work schedules, habits, and upcoming vacations, giving seedy individuals all the information they need to plan the perfect score. Check-in services such as Foursquare can offer up-to-the-minute tracking of a potential target's movements, giving robbers ample time to plan a getaway.

Experts say there are a number of things you can do to keep yourself better protected from potential social networking threats, but it means cutting back on boastful posts and check-ins. Bragging about an upcoming vacation is a no-no, as is constantly checking in with services like Foursquare. You should also keep your social network personas as private as possible, and only add friends who you've actually met in person. You can take a look at our Facebook privacy guide to get started on that front.

As for Google Maps, there's not much you can do to keep images and details about your home from reaching the wrong hands. But making sure potential burglars never know whether or not you're home should go a long way to avoiding being victimized. To get a full rundown of social network break-in stats be sure to check out Credit Sesame's detailed infographic.

This article originally appeared on Tecca

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