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Millions of users post details about their private movements, as well as holiday plans, acting as an open invitation to be burgled, according to insurers Legal & General.

The warning comes as a report called The Digital Criminal, commissioned by Legal & General, and prepared by Michael Fraser, the star of BBC’s Beat The Burglar, has been launched.

The Digital Criminal report, which polled 2,000 social network users, found nearly 40% had posted details of their holiday plans, with nearly two thirds of 16-24 year-olds doing so.

Mr Fraser, a reformed thief, said: “There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that burglars are using social networks to identify likely targets.”

“They gain confidence by learning more about them, what they are likely to own and when they are likely to be out of the house.”

“I call it ‘internet shopping for burglars’. It is incredibly easy to use social networking sites to target people, and then scope out more information on their actual home using other internet sites like Google Street View, all from the comfort of the sofa.”

“Our research shows that 41 per cent of people are divulging personal and private information to complete strangers on Facebook, such as their date of birth, where they worked, where they lived and what they were doing,” he said. “People are boasting about how they are having a fantastic time on a beach in Mexico on a webpage that has their home address.

“Criminals who put together the jigsaw can use it for identity theft or burglary. It is just as dangerous as leaving your windows or doors open at home.”

The report also found that almost half were unconcerned about social networking security. In an experiment, 100 friend requests were issued to random stranger. Nine out of 10 Twitter users accepted the stranger as a friend, with more than one in 10 Facebook users.

Privacy groups however have said insurance companies will simply use social networking sites to increase premiums.

Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, told The Daily Mail: “This is a disgraceful attempt to leverage yet more from customers.”

Malcolm Cooper, director of pricing and underwriting at Legal & General, said: “It’s a challenging one for the insurance industry. Just because someone is burgled, you can’t prove that it’s down to details posted on Facebook.

“It could be that we start asking how many youngsters are in the home for example.”