Best not to get too social with criminals

The Internet, more often than not, is an animal that is impossible to tame. Just when you start to feel comfortable with it, it can attack from an unusual angle.

This time of year, people are, to put it bluntly, consuming. They are buying gifts, carrying unusually high amounts of cash and traveling to see family and friends. And if you don’t believe it, just take a look at your Facebook page or at the Twitter accounts you follow.

You’re liable to see, usually in 140 characters or less, real-time information on folks who let you know where they’re shopping, where they’re eating and where they’re traveling. You’ll see accompanying photos to prove it.

And this is fine if you really are the individual’s “friend.”

But what if that’s not the case?

Any system can be breached. No matter how careful you are about who you associate with online, someone who’s clever enough with a keyboard can get around your precautions.

The fact is, someone with a mind toward larceny can “case” your house electronically if you’re not careful. Sending out an electronic post about what a grand time you’re having 300 miles from home is no different than taping a big sign on your front door saying, “We’re not home, so come on in and help yourself.”

There are some things you can do to avert this sort of problem. For one thing, it’s always great to share your vacation photos with your friends, but nothing requires you to do that while you’re still on vacation. The same is true when you go out for dinner and a movie. You can share all your great experiences after you’re back home. And tweeting about just how great the picture is on that 50-inch LED TV you just bought is the electronic equivalent of leaving the TV packaging box out by the garbage can for a couple of days.

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to lock our cars and homes to protect our possessions. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need to worry that someone might be up to no good if they know we’re away from home for an extended period. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need to turn off our home computers while we’re away for fear that it will get hacked.

But, as we all know, we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in one in which there are people who feel they are entitled to take anything you have that they can manage to get their hands on.

This is a season of celebration, but it’s no time to throw caution to the wind. There’s a lot of good will in the air these days, but there also are those who take advantage of other people’s good nature. Being smart when it comes to what you share on social media can go a long way toward making you less likely to end up a victim.