back to article Burglars used social network status updates to select victims

US police reckon a band of burglars used social network status updates to select victims. The alleged thieves carried out an estimated 50 burglaries in and around Nashua, New Hampshire, after gaining intelligence on properties that had been left vacant from status updates on social networking sites, such as Facebook. The case …


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  1. N2

    Cant blame the criminals for taking advantage...

    Of people so terminally thick as to post their whereabouts to all and sundry?

    1. ed2020

      Re. Can't blame the criminals...

      Errrmmm.... yes, you can actually. Other people's stupity doesn't make what they're doing less wrong.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Stupidity Tax

        Sure, it's not right but it in these instances it wouldn't have happened otherwise.

    2. rouit


      Professional or amateur burglars will break into your home, if there is an opportunity. Be prepared and fight back.

      Getting robbed is an awful feeling and makes you think that you could have done more to prevent it.

      By definition, the crime of burglary is a non-confrontational property crime that occurs when we are not at home.

      Living in a house takes more places and things to think about when talking security. There are lots of break-in points to consider.

      • Use a secondary blocking device on all sliding glass doors

      • Keep the latch mechanism in good condition and properly adjusted

      • Keep sliding door rollers in good condition and properly adjusted

      • Use anti-lift devices such as through-the-door pins or upper track screws

      • Use highly visible alarm decals, beware of dog decals or block watch decal

      • Secure all accessible windows with secondary blocking devices

      • Block accessible windows open no more than 6 inches for ventilation

      • Make sure someone cannot reach through an open window and unlock the door

      • Make sure someone cannot reach inside the window and remove the blocking device

      • Use anti-lift devices to prevent window from being lifted out

      • Use crime prevention or alarm decals on ground accessible windows

      • Use curtains or blinds over any windows or doors that are easy to see into

      • Keep expensive equipment and items away from your windows.

      • Install locks or secondary security devices on all accessible windows so they can't be opened far enough for someone to crawl through from the outside.

      • Make sure garage lights can be turned on from inside the house so you never have to walk into a dark garage.•

      • Use the safe everyday so it becomes routine

      • Burglars often target the elderly, so be a friend and keep an eye out for local retirees.

      • Fire doors are meant to let a person safely exit a building in case of fire — not to let a burglar safely enter it. Keep your hardware updated and the doors closed.

      • When living with multiple people, make sure everyone understands the importance of home security. It only takes one person to leave everyone else vulnerable. But don't rely on others; keep your private possessions locked away.

      • If you have had a bad experience already with a crook — learn from it — don't just think bad luck won't strike twice!

      if you want to learn more visit site

      so I learned all this by buying a UV marker for my child

  2. JaitcH

    This reminds me of the BA check-in guy

    I remember years ago, I think it was at Gatwick, a BA check-in counter man used to figure out whose houses were worth a visit whilst his customer passengers were away on vacation.

    When will people learn putting information on public notice boards, such as Facebook, make them vulnerable to many comprising uses the day employers looking for background information, or nosy neighbours wanting to know the latest gossip and, obviously, be ever vigilant criminal community.

    Remember the old maxim, " Talk is dangerous"? Still good today.

    1. Wize

      Thats one reason why my luggage always has...

      ...a friend or relative's address on it instead of mine. Anyone having a nose of my luggage tags will get a surprise.

    2. NogginTheNog

      Sounds familiar

      I'm sure that was why travel advice moved to suggesting NOT putting your home address on the outside of luggage, but written on something inside the case (in the event of it getting lost and then being opened)?

  3. Anonymous Coward

    I'm not sure I totally agree

    Sure, if I posted:

    "I'm off to the Maldives for a fortnight tomorrow. WOOHOO!. (and for the record, I don't share my house with anyone else whatsoever, I don't have 2 very large angry dogs, an active burglar alarm or house sitter)" then I would expect to be robbed blind in about 3 minutes, (assuming of course I was silly enough to allow my FB status to be viewable to anyone other than my own friends only).

    Anonymous, because I wouldn't want to let anyone know I'm at work and am not actually in my house right now. Or am I????? :0)

    1. Anton Ivanov

      How old are you?

      So, do you have kids of Facebook/Myspace/Bebo age and have you thought of their status updates?

      Guess not.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Old enough, but younger than you by the sounds of it.

        I have two kids, thanks for asking.

        My eldest is in on FB most nights and is very aware of net safety, the consequences of divulging too much info online, correctly applying security settings, and I'm on their friends list so can see status updates anyway. So 'Guess so'.

        Such are the the benefits of a little bit of education, having bright kids and actually giving a crap what they're doing when they're online.

      2. The Other Steve

        RE: How old are you?

        'Kids' are among the most sophisticated and prolific users of social networking technology and generally have no difficulty understanding it.

        If your kids don't 'get' the risks, maybe you just aren't beating them hard enough when you explain it ?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Very true

      Just because some idiot lets world and dog know they are out of town doesn't mean their house is empty or unguarded.

      Surely social network statuses alone aren't enough for a successful thieving mission.

    3. Captain TickTock

      Friends' Friends

      I'm pretty sure if a friend of mine likes or comments on my status, their friends get to see it, even if they don't know me.

      So I don't say nuffin no more.

  4. Cameron Colley

    Happened to a colleague.

    They posted that they would be abroad for a week -- so a "friend" burgled their house.

    With most young people today using FaceWitter and the like, it seems to stand to reason that the thieving scum amongst them use it in this way.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If I were a burglar

    I would track down my victims on Facebook. Not just that, but I would print out every piece of material they posted that led me to believe that they would be a good target, and leave it all in their home along with a note explaining what I did and why they should value their privacy, if not to honor their ancestors who died to protect it, then at least to protect themselves from people like me.

    I figure at this point they would need a stiff drink, so next to their whisky I would leave directions to a lockup where they can get their stuff back.

    1. Ancient Oracle funkie

      If you were a burglar

      I doubt you'd "leave directions to a lockup where they can get their stuff back".

      There really oughty to be a Beware Pedants icon

  6. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    I'm out, please burgle me

    ...on the other hand, I could just be working in the dark (better screen contrast) with a base-ball bat next to my chair, just in case :)

  7. Richard Porter

    Bathroom light?

    I have more than once left a downstairs light on all night my mistake. The bathroom light would only be on briefly if I had to get up in the night, which isn't very often.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I am sure most bathroom lights are on briefly

      well unless you get a dose of Norovirus!

    2. Wize

      Its old tech but...

      Timer switches work a treat. Someone watching gets to see you are off to your pit.

      Just need the automated curtains and I'm sorted.

    3. Captain TickTock

      Bathroom light?

      Our neighbours leave their bathroom light on all the time.

      Go burgle them!

  8. Anonymous Coward


    It's one thing to announce that you are going away using a public medium, which is arguably foolish.

    However, the real question is how the criminals found out where they lived...

    I think it is undeniably more stupid to post one's home address on the web.

    Unless I am overlooking an important detail... Does any one care to suggest how said burglars might have found this crucial information?

    1. Jimbo 6

      Re: how the criminals found out where they lived

      By looking up the person's name in the phone book ?

      It's a crazy idea, but it might just work.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        @ Jimbo

        Hi Jimbo,

        Yes that did occur to me, however anybody with any sense is ex-directory.

        Plus, it is quite difficult to determine which one of many entries in a phone book for a common name is the one you are looking for.

        I doubt that a burglar is going to visit 10 or more different properties spread across a town to attempt to determine which one is the John Smith who has just posted his holiday status update!

    2. Anonymous Coward

      My guess is...

      Since FaceBook has your full name, and can have your home town, a simple look up in the white pages is all that's needed. Failing that, there is the property records database. That last one I've used on more occasions than not to get a person's address. Unlike the white pages, where you can be unlisted, if you own property everyone and their dog has access to those. It has both the address of the property and the address of the owner (if not the same.)

      If your name is John Smith, and there are 100 John Smiths in the white pages/property appraiser's web site, you simply need to narrow down either by images, or by taking a stop by to see who's home and who's not. My guess is they targeted far easier to find people with unique names.

      1. Scorchio!!


        Facebook didn't have my full name, before I sacked them, for the very good reason that it and users did not need it. I contacted people whom I wanted to find and said hello. With the ridiculous changes to their security mechanism I sacked Facebook.

      2. ravenviz Silver badge

        Re: My guess is

        Just look on Google Streetview to see if they're in.

    3. Amazon Wageslave

      not that hard

      With a name and a town it's relatively straightforward to get an address using the phone book or directory inquiries. Even if there's a few possibles, it doesn't take much to drive past and see which house is unoccupied. Hell, if the victims had posted their holiday plans on FB, there's a good chance they also posted pics of their home, car or other distinguishing information (the really nice coffee shop down the road, the park across the street they walk the dog in, the annoying railway line behind their garden.)

      T-800 'coz he knows how to find a target using the phone book.

    4. Captain TickTock


      Do you have a website on your own domain...?

  9. leona 2

    Restrict your info.

    Be careful who you add as a 'friend' in the first place, or create groups for 'friends', 'best friends' or 'wonabe friends' and restrict your information or updates to the appropriate group.

    Don't put your address in your profile (do people actually do that?).

    By ya, posting, I'm not home, come and help yourself, isn't cleaver.

    But at the end of the day, crims will find a way, whatever you do. Sadly.

    1. Wize

      Let it be a warning to friendwhores

      I know everyone on my list. Its people I've actually met.

  10. John Dougald McCallum
    Thumb Up

    Lights Out

    Leave a light on by all means but use a light sensor as well no one leaves a light on 24/7.

    1. ravenviz Silver badge

      Re: Lights Out

      Well that's the difference between light and hard... you can sleep with a light on.

  11. The BigYin

    New "Adventure Staycation"?

    Post on "FB: I am sad! Just got a new 3D TV system and full home theatre, but have to go away for a week. Haven't even managed to get them out of the boxes!"

    Then hide in the under-stairs cupboard armed to the teeth and wait to be "burgled".

    Cheap and low-carbon!

    (Don't actually try this at home kids)

  12. The Other Steve

    Go tell your friends and family : Magic Unicorns Not Included

    I can in no way condone burglary, and I am usually more than averagely sympathetic with non technical end users who get themselves into a bind because they don't know what they're doing.

    With that said, this is getting way, way past stupidity. I see this kind of stuff all the time, my SO works in .edu and both students and staff are constantly putting stuff where it doesn't belong on the internet. It's gotten so bad now that in Wales right now the school governing body is trying to enforce a code of conduct that basically says something along the lines of "If you are out with your chums on a hen night at the weekend, you may wish to consider that your primary 3 class doesn't need to see those pictures of Shazza giving the stripper a blowie". Obviously I'm paraphrasing here. Individual institutions across the UK have been rolling such policies out with gay abandon the last few years.

    There seems to be a fixed (and proportionally small) number of people who haven't figured out yet - and by now this means they are either woefully stupid or wilfully ignorant - that shit you put on the internet is not protected by a herd of friendly magic unicorns who will magically stop anyone from seeing it who isn't in your mental white list. Those same unicorns will not also be around to save from bad people. There are bad people, there are no unicorns.

    Clearly, either we have to keep shouting this at people until they finally understand it, or we have to accept that we're probably going to lose some of the shallow end of the gene pool to predators.

    I'm leaning toward the second one now. If people don't finally start to understand after this, we probably aren't going to miss them very much.

  13. Graham Marsden

    There are always risks...

    ... many years ago some friends were burgled when they were on holiday. It turned out that the kid who delivered their newspaper was telling his father which people had cancelled their delivery for a couple of weeks whilst they were away...

    Admittedly this isn't as daft as announcing it to world + dog on your all-too-public status page, though.

  14. Jean-Luc

    more to come, methink

    We have human stupidity to blame here.

    But wait till savvy burglars can check things like http-capable, remotely interrogated power meters. Or things like remotely-monitored boilers and washing machines.

    I _guess_ the utility companies will be wise to the risk. Not so sure about any random heating boiler manufacturers. And those smart appliances will at first be pricey, early-adopter, models - a good indication the owner's house is worth robbing.

    My turning off my wifi when I go on vacation may also not be such a good idea after all :-(

    1. Captain TickTock

      Just say no to WiFi...

      But then, the same risk is true if someone dodgy works at your ISP...

      1. Captain TickTock

        Keep the broadband lights on...

        Thank heavens for NAS boxes, and BitTorrent (seeding OSS of course, otherwise the film and music industry will be breaking in....)

  15. Winkypop Silver badge


    ....why not just STOP using these time-wasting social networks?

    Oh that's right, they own your data for life.

    Sorry, my bad.

  16. DominicSayers


    Reprinting a press release because it appears to confirm your prejudice isn't helpful to your readers, all of whom (judging by the comments) appear to have swallowed this unlikely story wholly uncritically.

    Presumably you write this stuff for a living? Perhaps you could have tried to get some first-hand information for your story and subjected it to some common-sense tests before trotting it out.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Journalism

      The original source is a crime report on a local US TV station.

      Secondhand, yes: regurgitated press release, no.

    2. Scorchio!!

      Not bogus

      This has been around for a long time in fact. People used to cull this sort of information from suckers on Usenet and email lists who didn't think about what they were doing.

      However, try looking at these:

      Not regurgitated, not unlikely, not prejudiced. At least, not prejudiced in the sense that I think you intend. HTH. HAND.

    3. Scorchio!!


      Dominic, I clearly have a security policy in respect of releasing information online about myself; practically nothing relating to me can be found online. You however... ...tsk, tsk.

  17. Scorchio!!


    I go away only after effecting a number of precautions; in addition to the existing timed light, which I vary to match daylight hours, I activate another; I never draw the curtains because, d'oh, it's a giveaway; I have blinds downstairs in addition to curtains; I carry packed bags through the rear door of my house and into the garage/car; I wear the sort of clothing that I normally would given the weather and day of week; I alert a neighbour when I go away.

    Social networking sites don't need to know what I am doing and, besides, they don't achieve very much, except perhaps for tracing lost friends and family.

  18. Gavin Burnett

    Leave a light on? Nah!

    I would rather use the trick in open all hours where there is a sound of a dog barking in the shop – cut to the storeroom at the back and you see a tape recorder playing.

    1. Scorchio!!

      Better still

      Gizoo or one of the other online gadget shops has a television simulator; it puts out the same kind of flickering light as a television. I don't know if there's a timer on it, but that would not matter for me, since I use a timer with about 20 different settings on it, a randomiser, and so on.

      If you don't have a dog the barking ploy isn't very credible, but other signs of activity that are typical for a building make good sense.

  19. asapearace

    Dont blame the network blame the user?!

    There is a distinct issue with people over-sharing on social networks. I have written about this previously here:

    Social Media is developing at a faster rate that the man on the street is learning how to use it safely. Someone needs to take responsibly for education and awareness raising - but who should take this role? Is it up to the individual to educate themselves? Are they even aware that there is a gap in their knowledge? Or should the government implement an awareness raising strategy in the hope that this will go some way towards addressing the issue.

    1. Jean-Luc

      to answer your question...

      Yours are valid points. However, I know I don't want my government to waste $ educating people on how to use social media.

      And I would think your government has enough spending cuts planned that new Facebook awareness campaigns would not be a high priority.

      I think the press, along with word of mouth, along with examples of the clueless getting shafted, will gradually percolate.

      Plus, Facebook-type issues are larger than robberies. You have people who are going to lug the digital equivalent of a scarlet letter for life, because of some thoughtless posts ("so, Mr. Candidate, what can you tell us about that FB post where you stated you were shit-faced on marijuana ?"). That will take time for people to get used to.

      FB and the like are useful communication tools, IMHO. They should not become your life. And keep in mind that whatever you post has potential to be looked up much, much, later.

      p.s. am I the only one finding the trendy FB-hating on this site a bit rich, coming from a bunch of people, who (me included) are basically preening online?

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