A Harare security expert Mr Fungai Muchemwa has warned residents over updating their locations on social media saying this is giving criminals information for them to pounce on their properties as witnessed in the recent past.
He said privacy must be prioritised and residents should only alert close trusted friends and family who should be people they actually know in real life and not those they would have just met on social media.
Mr Muchemwa cautioned people against giving their exact locations and travel details as many reports have indicated that criminals are now stalking their victims online and taking advantage of technology.
“As far back as 2011 CNBC Network had an article warning and cautioning people on the dangers of notifying people of their holiday locations or locations away from home. Now in Zimbabwe reports have been made to ZRP of burglaries whilst families are away on holiday or out at the farm or even a dinner at a restaurant. How did it all happen? Someone who should not know where you are, knew where you were.
“With technology getting more and more intricate and advantageous it also poses threats for us as some people take advantage of this information. Posting on social media about your whereabouts is as good as telling the criminals that: ‘I have left my house and feel free to access it’.
Secondary to this, it is also a good idea to not give exact details of your travels and return dates to your house help as statistics from home burglaries show a very high correlation with the house help thus making it an inside job,” he said.
Mr Muchemwa advised residents that there was an emerging trend where criminals also now target houses during the day.
“Home invasions, breaking and entering have been accepted as happening under the cover of darkness but as times get harder economically, criminals have now started to engage in these during broad daylight. Such instances as a whole 5000-litre water tank being stolen in broad daylight in Borrowdale happened in 2020. The criminal even had the audacity to put the tank on a push cart and push the tank out of the neighbourhood slowly, hiding in plain sight so to speak.
“How many friends are your real friends on Facebook, Twitter or such other social media platforms? We tend to accept friend requests because of associations. Friend of a friend should surely be a friend of mine, but is that always the case? These platforms are now being used to gather data on the movement, likes and dislikes of people.
“A piece of key advice is to ensure that your security settings allow posts for only people who are your friends and not the whole world. This is of course after ensuring your friends on Facebook are your real friends. Try and avoid announcing your movements on Facebook. Many a post have been, so and so is at OR Tambo travelling to Harare International Airport. As a criminal I know from the time of post I have at least 4 hours before so and so is back at their residence. Enough time to get in and get out,” said Mr Muchemwa.
He also advised residents to remove the location setting on their devices so that they can be safe as they enjoy their planned events. He said as technology is advancing criminals are also getting smarter and are out there waiting to pounce.
“Another neat trick is to remove the location setting on your camera on your phone. By default, phone cameras leave what is called meta-data on your picture showing exactly where the picture was taken. No, it’s not magic when you post a picture on Facebook and it suddenly knows exactly where you are, it just ran through your pictures meta-data and voila.
“The tech-age may not be as advanced on developing countries as it is in the first world but slowly but surely criminals are learning to work smarter and not harder.
“Applications such as Google Street View can give anyone real time view of your street and house and so allowing criminals to stake out your house from an undisclosed location,” he said.
“Privacy is very important and serves to protect each one of us from malice and danger. Some travel updates can be very unnecessary and in the event the need arises it is well advised to post about your travels well after they have occurred.
“During your travels, lock all doors and windows, have friends or neighbours regularly check in on your place and find mechanisms of having lights switch on during the night.
“Your safety and that of your family and your property begins with you. Sometimes the whole world doesn’t need to know where you are and what you are doing.”