Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011 • Your home’s security can be compromised in 140 characters or less

Lock the doors, check. Close all windows, upstairs and down, check. Leave a key with Bob next door, check. Just when you thought you had mastered the art of burglar-proofing your home, a new danger has emerged that could compromise the safety of your residence this holiday season. And that culprit is social media.

The holidays may bring “tidings of comfort and joy,” but they also bring nearly 400,000 burglaries nationwide in November and December, with family homes targeted most frequently, according to the FBI.

“Social media is definitely a factor in many of today’s burglaries. Instead of watching for mail to accumulate outside your residence, burglars can case your home by simply scanning your Twitter feed and monitoring your Facebook status for any signs you’re away,” said Joanna Moore, Mercury Insurance chief claims officer. “And it’s only getting easier with new features like Facebook Places, which allows users to divulge their exact location by simply checking in.”

Studies show 70 percent of burglars are amateurs simply looking for an easy target, and 65 percent of the time the offender isn’t a stranger.

Perhaps, a follower on Twitter?

A friend on Facebook?

“You risk tipping off burglars to your home’s vulnerability by ‘tweeting,’ ‘updating,’ ‘posting’ or ‘checking in’ during your holiday travels. There’s nothing more convenient for robbers than when their victims are away for an extended period of time,” said Moore. “And you never know whose hands into which your information is falling.”

So now, making sure no one in your family, including the kids, is posting information about your holiday travel plans should be added to your pre-trip checklist because criminals use social media, too.

Moore offers these additional social media tips to consider before taking off on your holiday vacation

• Use social media to your advantage. Update social media to give the impression your family is home. This may deter any potential outside interest in your property.

• Resist the urge to upload photos during your vacation. Wait until you’re home to flaunt your family’s Christmas trip to the Bahamas.

• Shut-off your home computer. Disconnect from the internet, especially if you store any personal information on your PC. An unattended computer connected to the internet is an easy mark for hackers.

Warning your family about social media and how it pertains to home safety will allow you to focus on more important holiday matters. Wrap the presents, check. Hang the stockings, check. Put out a glass of milk and cookies, check.