Digital crime advice

Social media sites — such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — have become a big part of our day-to-day lives. Let's be honest, how many times a day do you "just check" your feed?

In an increasingly connected world, many of us share our lives online — from our weekend plans to what we had for lunch. It's now possible for people who've never met you to know all kinds of details that a few years ago would have been considered private — where you live, where you work, your date of birth, where you go on holiday and what your mobile number is, for example.

The risks of social sharing

When people share so much information online they make themselves susceptible to digital crime without even realising it. Just one innocent post about an upcoming holiday could have serious consequences if seen by the wrong person — you're letting them know when your home will be empty and you're less likely to be keeping an eye on your bank balance. Put it like this: you wouldn't place a notice in your front garden telling people you're going on holiday, so you shouldn't share this type of information online either.

A recent study conducted by the Safe Shop found that 65% of UK residents don't have security settings on all their posts on social media, while 50% admitted to tagging themselves whilst on holiday and 43% said they tagged themselves at the airport.

It's not just sharing your location that can make you more vulnerable to crime. While you might want to show off the fact that you've just bought a new car, television, iPad or digital camera, criminals could see photos of these high-value items and decide your home is worth breaking into. Another quick status update about how much you're looking forward to a pint down the pub later, and Mr. Burglar knows the best time to try his luck.

Ways you can prevent digital crime

The key to preventing digital crime is to be both conscious and cautious about everything you share online. The golden rule is this: think before you post!

Here at Hastings Direct, we want to offer you more than home insurance. We want to provide you with valuable digital crime advice to help safeguard both you and your property. So, when it comes to sharing information online, here's what you should do:

Carry out a Google check

Searching for your name in Google will let you see what — and how much — information about you is in the digital space. If you're unhappy with the type of information on show, you should find out where it's displayed and seek to delete it.

Check your privacy settings

The privacy settings on your social accounts should be set so that only people you've accepted to be your friends or followers can view your posts. This isn't always set as standard and so you might need to manually alter the settings.

See if your address can be purchased

The majority of people are unaware that anyone can purchase their private address information via 192.com, regardless of whether they're ex-directory or not. You can find out more information at 192.com privacy policy.

Limit personal details on social profiles

When you sign up with a social network, you'll be required to create a personal profile and fill in details such as your email address, telephone number and place of work. Ideally, you should limit what information you share, as you never know who might be able to get hold of it.

Update your friend list

Do you have more digital friends than real-life friends? If the answer's "yes", it's time to refresh your lists! Set some time aside to work through your lists, removing people who you don't know or no longer talk to. You wouldn't stop a stranger in the street and tell them about your life, so you shouldn't do it on social media either.

Turn off GPS trackers and location data

Many new smartphones come integrated with GPS trackers, which can make your whereabouts known to others without you even realising it. If you don't need it, switch it off — instructions on how to do this will be in the user manual.

Similarly, social sites now give the option to share your location when you write a post. Avoid doing this even if you're at home, as tagging your address may reveal your location to criminals.

Additional measures to protect your home

As well as being wary of what content you share online, there are also other practical steps you can take to protect your property when you go away. These include using lights with timers, investing in burglar alarms, and asking a neighbour or friend to collect your mail and put your bins out.

Digital crime and home insurance

Taking out quality insurance will help protect your home and its contents in the unfortunate event of a burglary.

It's worth knowing that insurers have now started to analyse social media activity when assessing burglary claims. If your home is burgled and they discover that you shared a post about being away at the time, you could see your claim being rejected. Most policies state you should take "reasonable care" to safeguard your home and contents, which includes being discreet about the times you might be out of the house.

Hastings Direct home contents cover options

Our home contents insurance covers all items in your home that are not part of the building structure, from televisions and sofas to beds and carpets. The policy covers you for loss and damage caused by a range of factors, including theft and vandalism, damage caused by fire, natural disasters and much more.

We can also offer additional cover for items worth £1,500 or more, as well as items you carry with you when you go out.

For more information, call one of our specialist team members on 0800 99 1066.

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