Facebook ‘check ins’ could cause house insurance to increase

21 Apr 2011

The AA has warned people not to post their travel plans on social networking sites as burglars are watching. It also predicts home insurance premiums could rise due to people checking in via their smartphone and broadcasting they’re not at home.

As many as 10pc of the respondents in a recent poll admitted to disclosing their travel plans via a social media site. A further 8pc said someone else within their household had naïvely broadcast to the world that the family home was about to be unoccupied for a spell.

The AA poll also highlighted a widespread culture of carelessness among younger social media users.

Some 42.6pc of 17 to 24-year-olds who participated in the poll admitted to indiscriminately broadcasting their travel plans and the AA fears this may be even higher among younger teens. Following this, 25.9pc of 25 to 35-year-olds said they were guilty of the same.

Women are more likely to share their whereabouts on social network sites than men: 13.9pc of women compared with 7.1pc of men surveyed confessed to publishing such information.

“We are encouraging people to be careful.” says John Farrell, commercial director of AA Insurance.

“We do sensible things like cancelling milk deliveries and asking a neighbour to keep an eye on the house while we are away.

“But at the same time, many people are casually telling the world that no one will be at home for the next week or fortnight, which is a bit like putting out a virtual welcome mat on the internet. It’s not just the homeowners, and you also need to remind the kids to be a bit more sensible.”

AA predicts rise in household security premiums due to social networking

Farrell continued: “We particularly urge smartphone users to consider the security risks when ‘checking in’ to location-based social media services, such as Foursquare and the newly launched Facebook Places.

“While you might enjoy sharing your location with friends and picking up handy geo-specific information, you could also be tipping burglars off that you’re not home. Even more importantly, users should never list their home as a location when checked into any of these services.”

AA Home Insurance predicts that social media usage could influence home insurance premiums industry-wide in the not too distant future.

“When sourcing a home insurance quote, homeowners could find themselves being asked whether they’re active on social networking sites, as well as whether or not they have security locks and an approved intruder alarm installed.

“Homeowners whose properties are burgled having let their holiday plans slip online may even see a knock-on effect on their subsequent home-insurance premiums.

“Social media is fast becoming a major research tool for burglars and an ill thought out tweet could end up costing you thousands,” said Farrell.

“Last September, police in the American state of New Hampshire arrested a burglary ring that had targeted over 50 homes, having learned they were unoccupied through Facebook. In some of these cases, it was children or teens who had unwittingly advertised this information so it’s especially important to educate children of the risks.”

Here are some of the AA’s household security tips for social media users:

  • Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know.
  • Review your security setting, to restrict access to your personal profile information.
  • Use private DM or inbox facilities to communicate private or potentially sensitive messages.
  • Never post your mobile number or home address on social media sites.
  • Remove wall postings from friends that may allude to your travel plans.
  • Remember that when you join a social media group, thousands of people could potentially have access to your profile unless you adjust your security settings.
  • Don’t boast online about the expensive new flat-screen TV you’ve just bought.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years