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Insurer warns social media users of burglary risks

23 September 2010  |  4597 views  |  0 anonymous figure in front of stock exchange

Churchill Home Insurance has warned customers not to advertise their whereabouts on social media sites for fear of driving a big increase in house burglaries.

The warning from the UK insurance company comes after a burglary ring in Nashua, New Hampshire, targeted people who checked into places on facebook, alerting them when they were not home. The police caught the gang after they broke into 50 homes and stole $100,000 worth of goods.

Earlier this year, price comparison Website Confused.com predicted the new wave in social media could eventually lead to big hikes in home insurance premiums.

Gareth Kloet, head of home insurance at Confused.com says: "What's happened in the US could be the start of a worrying trend and if insurance providers see it as a potential risk, you can bet your home contents on the fact they'll start pricing for it. Something like 'Places' on facebook broadcasts people's locations on a platform which has 500 million users - you don't need to be an insurance provider to see the risk that poses. I wouldn't be surprised if we see rises of up to 10% for social media users in the future."

Although deriding users of such location-tracking services as 'facebook Places plonkers and twit tweeters', Churchill insists it has no plans to raise its premiums.

Claire Foster, spokesperson for Churchill home insurance, comments: "Our customers are covered whether they tell people where they are or not. However, common sense dictates that you should avoid advertising to opportunistic thieves where you are."

The potential dangers associated with revealing locations through social networking sites was highlighted earlier this year with the launch of PleaseRobMe.

The Dutch site pulls together information from Twitter and FoureSquare - a social game based on players' geo-location - to provide a stream of messages from people leaving their houses.

"On one end we're leaving lights on when we're going on a holiday, and on the other we're telling everybody on the Internet we're not home," says the site, which was launched to raise awareness of the dangers.

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