Do you use Facebook or other social media sites? If you do, you’re not alone. In fact, according to PEW Research Center, 74% of all online adults in the U.S. use social networking sites in some way. With so many people on social media sites, it can often be easy to share more information than might be safe for yourself and your family.

Officer Kyle Groose, Crime Prevention Officer at the Laramie Police Department, says it is easy for people to post things on social media sites without realizing potential dangers.

Many people post things like their address, phone numbers, names of family members, place of work, and their date of birth. Groose warns that this kind of information can often open the door for identity thieves.

He adds that people often post information to inform their friends of vacation plans along with dates they will be out of town, which can make them a target for criminal activity.

“When people post that they’re on vacation or that they’re out of town, it can leave the residence vulnerable to burglary or any vehicles that might be left at the residence to burglary,” says Groose.

Additionally, people can often find information on when people are home alone from simple Facebook posts.

Many people do not recognize how much information about a family can be gleaned from their Facebook or other social media pages. Often people are able to discover a child’s name, age, and school from innocent posts on Facebook by friends and family. In addition, people may gain access to family photos and even contact information for family members.

He says that in his experience, it does not seem that any specific age group or gender is more susceptible to crime, violence, or harassment that occurs after someone gathers information on Facebook.

“I’ve had harassment calls on Facebook ranging anywhere from teenagers to adults in their fifties,” says Groose. “Honestly, it can happen to anybody.”

Groose also warns that people should be careful when posting photos on the internet. Some photos allow GPS coordinates on them, so people can be easily tracked. In addition, Groose warns that particularly dedicated criminals may even use photos of a residence or frequently visited locations to track a person’s movements or discover their address.

It is important that people use privacy settings to limit who sees their information, but such settings are not fool proof.

“Anybody that posts something on the internet, it’s going to be there forever. Regardless of whether they delete it or not, people are able to find that information,” says Groose.

He says the best practice for people to use when on social media sites is to ask themselves if there is anyone that they would not want to see that information. Whether it is a status update, information on who is home, when you are out of town, or information about your children, it is important to know that others can see it as well.

Groose says that it is important for people to limit some information posted online in order to keep themselves, their family, and their property from harm.

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