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Neighborhood apps: don't use them carelessly

The ongoing evolution of social networking is helping neighbors share information
Posted at 5:07 AM, Sep 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-23 07:37:59-04

AMHERST, N.Y. (WKBW) — The way we communicate with each other has changed dramatically with the growth of social media giants like Twitter and Facebook.

Social networking is also driving the growth of neighborhood apps, such as "Neighbors by Ring" and "Nextdoor," which allows neighbors to share information among each other on a smaller scale.

According to Joel Colombo, internet consultant and president of 360 PSG in Amherst, neighborhood apps can be very useful for spreading information about neighborhood-related issues such as garage sales, lost pets, and minor crimes.

The use of camera-equipped doorbells, through Amazon's Ring network, are also helping neighbors better watch out for each other.

Ring cameras have been used to capture video of "porch pirates" stealing packages from doorsteps, and even some police agencies are now looking to use the network for enforcement.

"You can look at some elements of it as a modern day neighborhood watch," said Colombo.

However, as with everything in the digital world, there are people looking to misuse neighborhood apps to take advantage of you.

"Like anything, you are going to have some bad apples," added Colombo, who said the apps are less monitored than Twitter or Facebook and that has caused problems with bullying.

"The bullying is happening. People are able to go on there and find the neighbors and target them," commented Colombo.

HERE ARE SOME IMPORTANT THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND:

  • Use the same precautions on neighborhood apps that you would with Twitter or Facebook.
  • Be careful what you post - especially about being away.
  • Even asking your online neighbors to watch you home while on vacation could make you a target for thieves.
  • It is difficult for users to know with 100% certainty who is really your neighbor or an impostor.
  • Asking for babysitters at certain times/days lets criminals know your home is vulnerable.
  • Use the privacy setting on your neighborhood apps to prevent your home address from being broadcast.
  • Don't post messages about your neighbors being away.
  • Beware of using contractor recommendations without checking them with the Better Business Bureau. Some companies, and bad contractors, will use "guerrilla tactics" to make it look like they are a neighbor giving a good recommendation.
  • Anything that looks suspicious probably is.