You may have heard something about the Eagles winning the Super Bowl recently. What got a bit less attention was that New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski returned from his team's loss to find out that his house had been burglarized in his absence. For a public figure playing in the nation's most watched sporting event, it was difficult to hide that his house would be empty that week. That shouldn't be a problem for ordinary folks who aren't Pro Bowlers — but it is.
When traveling, it's common practice back at home to use the age-old trick of leaving the living room light on a timer, so it looks as though someone's at home. Lights in the window can deter a drive-by thief, but elsewhere you may be alerting a much wider audience that you're on vacation. We're talking about social media. These days, people of all ages are active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms. We share updates on our daily lives, so it's a natural extension to tell the world about travel plans. Many excited vacationers even provide live updates while they are away. That keeps friends in the loop, but it also makes it super-convenient for would-be burglars to know when a residence will be empty.
Before scoffing at this concept, consider a recent case in Glastonbury, Conn., where police arrested a Hartford couple that was robbing homes in the upscale community. How did they know the houses would be empty? They researched social media to see who mentioned upcoming trips or even posted vacation photos in real-time while they were away. Sharing this information on social media is like taking out an ad in the local newspaper to announce that your home is vacant.
Don't just take our word for it. The Philadelphia Police Department advises: "Do not post about your vacation on Facebook or any other Social Media site until after you get back. If that takes more discipline than you can muster, at the very least keep your location status off any public social networking pages."
Change your privacy settings before you travel; it's safe to assume the default setting for most social networks is "public." Your friends can still give your photos a "thumbs up" after you've returned.
For more ideas about keeping your home safe while traveling, read this post about vacation planning tips on the PhillyPolice blog.