I read a great article today titled 13 Things a Burglar Will Never Tell You by Dr. Mercola on Mercola.com that outlines what burglars look for as they assess homes to rob . As I read it, I realized the list should be extended to identify how common online actions help burglars and thieves with their exploits. The original article, 13 Things a Burglar Will Never Tell You, is also included at the bottom of this blog with permission.
I have interviewed many criminals. Here are 11 recommendations that outline some key things crooks look for online:
1) Up-to-date security software is critical to blocking ID theft, robberies, and other real-world crimes. Chances are you store your security codes and financial information on your home computer; an unprotected computer is like handing me the keys to your house – and your checkbook.
2) Protect your identity and location. Posting detailed profile information that tells me where you live and your full name – makes finding you, or stealing your identity, that much easier.
3) Strong passwords really are your best friend. I’m not going to waste my time trying to hack your password when I can find hundreds of others with weak passwords who make it easy for me.
4) There is a good chance you know me. While organized crime rings do a lot of damage, lots of ID theft and home robberies are done by people you, or family members know.
5) Don’t tell me when you’re away. Posting content that tells me you are (or will be) away from home or out of town saves me the bother of wasting gas looking for empty homes – and the worry that someone will be back sooner than I expect. Keep information about your travel schedule (even to team practices) private. I won’t leave a business card explaining why I knew to break in.
6) Sharing information about possessions in your blog and social networking posts ensures I won’t break into homes with nothing interesting to steal. Keep information about your possessions private.
7) I like bridal and baby registry websites – I can see exactly what has been purchased for you, and when it will arrive. With any luck, it will still be in original packaging. The types of gifts you request shows your economic status, and lets me know if there may be other interesting items to steal. When you include a blog in your registry, you typically tell me when you will be away from home on that honeymoon or at the hospital. Memorial websites are almost as useful. Use a site that allows you to set privacy boundaries.
8) A picture really does paint a thousand words. What you don’t tell me in text, you are likely to give away in photos – and the text under photos. You see a cute photo. I see who you are, your age, your socio-economic status, and frequently your possessions, your home, friends and more. I use this information to customize spam and scams, break into your home, know what to steal, take your identity, or threaten a family member. Keep photos of family, friends, possessions and homes private.
9) I will exploit your emotions. If you are happy, I’ll share your joy as you over-share information. If you are sad, I’ll give you a shoulder to cry on as I build your trust and learn your secrets. If you’re stressed about money, I’ve got a get rich quick scheme. If you want romance, I’m your guy/gal as I build your trust.. see a theme here? The more you share, the better my chances of breaking in, stealing your car, hijacking your ID, and so on.
10) Checking your credit report is FREE; even better, freeze your credit so I can’t take out new credit in your name. The more time that passes before you detect what I’m doing, the bigger your problem becomes.
11) Take your time. I make my money when you to act without thinking. I want you to panic when I make a pop-up saying your computer is infected, rush to accept an offer that’s too good to be true, or offers to ‘save’ you money, or get your ‘lottery winnings’, or help me in my ‘hour of need’. If you take the time to think things through you and check the facts, you will avoid my well-placed-but-malicious links, are much less likely to give away your information, or fall for my exploits.
Posted by: Dr. Mercola
September 15 2009
The information for this comes from crime experts and convicted burglars in North Carolina, Oregon, California, and Kentucky. Here’s what a burglar won’t tell you:
- Of course I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator.
- Thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working in your yard last week. While I was in there, I unlatched the back window to make my return a little easier.
- Love the flowers — they tell me you have taste, and taste means there are nice things inside. Those yard toys your kids leave out always make me wonder what type of gaming system they have.
- I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway. And I might leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes you to remove it.
- If it snows while you’re out of town, get a neighbor to create car and foot tracks into the house.
- If decorative glass is part of your front entrance, don’t let your alarm company install the control pad where I can see if it’s set.
- A good security company alarms the window over the sink. And the windows on the second floor, which often access the master bedroom. It’s not a bad idea to put motion detectors up there too.
- It’s raining, you’re fumbling with your umbrella, and you forget to lock your door — understandable. But I don’t take a day off because of bad weather.
- I always knock first. If you answer, I’ll ask for directions somewhere or offer to clean your gutters — don’t take me up on it.
- I always check dresser drawers, the bedside table, and the medicine cabinet.
- However, I almost never go into kids’ rooms.
- I won’t have enough time to break into that safe where you keep your valuables. But if it’s not bolted down, I’ll take it with me.
- A loud TV or radio can be a better deterrent than the best alarm system. You can also buy a $35 device that works on a timer and simulates the flickering glow of a television.
Copyright 2009 Dr. Joseph Mercola. All Rights Reserved.