"I'm just getting
off the plane in Los Angeles, can't wait for two weeks of Californian
sun!" Sound familiar? We've all gotten into the habit of alerting our
friends and family whenever something happens in our lives, through Twitter,
Facebook and a variety of other social media websites.
It now seems pretty normal to let the people in our lives know exactly where in the world we are at any given moment. Most of the time, you're not likely to share that information if you're just sitting at home in front of the telly, and therefore you are effectively broadcasting the fact that you're out and about, leaving your castle unguarded. Unfortunately we cannot always control who else sees that information, and our audience may not always have our best interests at heart.
PleaseRobMe.com is a new tongue-in-cheek website that highlights the safety issues caused by all this sharing. It does this by trawling the web to find posts where people are revealing a little too much about their current location. It's a big wake-up call for all of us; rhapsodising about the view from your hotel in Bolivia is great for making your mates at home jealous, but it's also a red flag for opportunistic burglars looking for an easy target.
You may be surprised by the amount that a total stranger can learn about you from social networking sites. As an experiment, type your name into a search engine, and see what comes up. LinkedIn and other business networking sites will reveal your current place of work (and it's only a short step from there to find out the office postal address), and many people post their phone number, email address and postal address on their Facebook, Bebo and Twitter accounts - even if it is just in response to a friend's request for contact information.
All of this personal information washing around the Internet can have a number of negative outcomes. One of these is a rise in identity theft, a type of fraud to which millions of Britons have already fallen victim. This means that you may find it extremely difficult to get approved for loans or other credit in the future - and often you will not realise until the damage has been done. Another is a rise in home and office burglaries, and it may be that home insurance providers will refuse to pay out on a contents insurance claim if it transpires that you have been broadcasting your whereabouts to all and sundry on Facebook. After all, if the burglar can check what you have been posting, your insurer will be able to as well.
If you're concerned about identity theft, you should check your credit rating through one of the UK's credit reference agencies to see if any credit applications have been made fraudulently under your name. You can get a free 30-day trial subscription to your credit report through Credit Expert by clicking here.