Five Ways to Protect Yourself from Being Victimized Using Social Media During the Holidays

Lots of people go out of town for the holidays to visit relatives or to get as far away from relatives as possible. Both are understandable, but in this era of modern social networking, it's important to be careful about how you interact with Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and others.

One well-known tactic of thieves is watching the obituaries. It makes sense. When someone dies, particularly someone very old, the likelihood of their homes being left unattended and full of goodies for Stealin' Santa to put in his getaway sleigh is high. With social media, you don't have to be dead, just careless, and you could come home to a giant lump of coal in your stocking in the form of missing jewelry and electronics.

Here are five ways to keep from losing more than you gain this Christmas.

5. Be careful with check-ins and status updates. We know it's tempting to become the mayor of grandma's house while you are away, but telling people where you are also tells people where you aren't. Checking in at the Applebee's in Minneapolis might seem cute, but it alerts criminals in Houston that you are clearly not going to be home to keep them from nabbing your valuables...and that you eat at crappy chain restaurants. Hold off on the check-ins until you get back. Also, don't post a bunch of status updates talking about the brand-new TV you are so sad to leave behind while you travel all the way to Wyoming to visit the folks. It might not be there when you get back.

4. Don't publish your personal information online. I'm always surprised when I see addresses voluntarily posted by people online or people listed as the mayor of their houses. You know those check-ins come complete with GPS maps that lead criminals right to you, right? It's bad enough when you are at home, but when you leave a trail of information about yourself and your whereabouts while on vacation, you are inviting unscrupulous characters into your home. Don't do that.

3. Wait to post photos. That picture of your freshly painted toenails in front of the pool in the Virgin Islands might be totally adorbs, but it is nothing more than a signal to criminals everywhere that you ain't home. Save posting cute photos of you rolling in the snow with your nieces and nephews for when you are bored back at work. And, ask your family to not tag you in their own photos for the same reason and not just because you are wearing that ridiculous reindeer sweater and faux antlers while shotgunning eggnog. 2. Turn off your computer. Thieves in your home town aren't the only ones looking to score at your expense this year. Hackers will take every opportunity to pilfer your personal information while you are out as well. The simplest way to solve this problem is to turn your computer off while you are gone. No one is going to be able to remotely turn your computer on while you are out that way. In fact, for safety AND for the environment, unplug it from the wall. You'll feel all good and green as you drive halfway across the country in your Hummer.

1. Fake out the criminals. If you really want to be a pain in the ass to people who want to rob you blind, mess with them. Post fake status updates and photos of yourself at home. Criminals are dumb. They won't know the difference.

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