Are You Sharing Too Much Online?

You may be revealing too much information on Facebook and other social Web sites that might be putting you in danger.

November 1, 2010

In your efforts to better connect with prospects and customers on the Web, could you be putting your personal safety at risk? It’s a growing problem, according to Tracey Hawkins, a national safety expert based in Kansas City, Mo., and a consultant to major real estate companies.

"I’m seeing agents who want to show the world that they’re busy and active, so they’re oversharing information" on networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare, Hawkins says.

The location of the restaurant where you’re meeting a client or a link to the details of a property that you’ll be showing could be used the wrong way by thieves or others who don’t have your best interest in mind, she says.

Even posting your birth date and birth place on Facebook can work against you, giving identity thieves key information they can use to access other personal data, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit consumer organization.

Here are some more tips for playing it safe:

  • Vet your "friends." "If you allow pretty much anyone to see what you’re doing and where you’re going on vacation, you’re making it too easy for criminals," Hawkins says.
  • Don’t share sensitive information. Avoid posting your home address, your current whereabouts, and when you plan to be out of town.
  • Watch how you describe the property. Phrases like "vacant," "isolated," and "private setting," can be triggers for criminals.
  • Be selective about photos. A glamour shot or any photo showing flashy jewelry is never a good idea. Also, advise clients to stow away valuables before property photos are taken.
  • Monitor your privacy settings. Once you set some controls, Hawkins also suggests previewing your social networking pages as an anonymous user and finding out what information is being picked up by search engines.

"Anything that you post will more than likely be public at some point," Hawkins says. "The best strategy is to control the information that you put out there in the first place."

Learn More

Access fact sheets on information security at the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.