Social Media Aiding Burglars in Finding New Targets

By Erin Harrison November 02, 2011

The dangers of location-based services lurk among social networking websites by allowing users to “check in” and out of various locations; they can be a great tip-off for burglars planning to make their next hit.

Burglary has evolved to the point where criminals are capitalizing on the possibilities of social media, according to a new report from Mashable, even going as far as using Google Maps and other similar geographical tools to case neighborhoods ahead of the hit.

Most of us think it’s innocent enough when we post a countdown to our next vacation, or check in to the movie theatre with our friends. But what it could potentially be doing is tipping off trolling burglars that your house will be vacant – certainly long enough for them to invade your home and make off with your possessions.

Foursquare and Facebook, for example, can show when somebody is away from their home or traveling for the weekend – exposing hundreds of millions users to potential privacy invasion ramifications.

A new study of 50 “ex-burglars” in the U.K. showed that nearly 80 percent of them said they utilized Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare to target which homes to rob. The study, conducted by Credit Sesame, a personal finance tool and website, also found that 73 percent said they used Google Street View to scope out neighborhoods ahead of time, Mashable reported.

“Of course, the pendulum swings both ways. Home owners are getting crafty by using webcams and posting images to social networks to help identify criminals,” the report said. “There are also stories of busted computer criminals that were caught by remote picture-taking software.”

Although Credit Sesame’s study is small, the high numbers are a fair enough indicator of how often burglars use social media to target their prey.


Erin Harrison is Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives, for TMC, where she oversees the company's strategic editorial initiatives, including the launch of several new print and online initiatives. She plays an active role in the print publications and TechZone360, covering IP communications, information technology and other related topics. To read more of Erin's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves

Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives

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