Burglary Ring Scoped Facebook Statuses For Targets

Even though your friends may be bored with your copious Facebook posts, there is a certain group that is very interested in your lame airport terminal observations and vacation photos. That group would be thieves.

In a case that drives home the purpose of Please Rob Me, a site dedicated to raising anti-oversharing awareness, the robbers hit 50 homes in Nashua, N.H. in August. At least the criminals were slow to fence the booty. Cops confiscated as much as $200,000 in stolen goods from the suspects.

“Be careful of what you post on these social networking sites,” the local police captain told WMUR 9 of New Hampshire. “We know for a fact that some of these players, some of these criminals, were looking on these sites and identifying their targets through these social networking sites.”

In addition to upping your Facebook security settings and being careful what you post, you should also avoid releasing the football after scoring a game-winning touchdown against the Bears, lest you face brutal (though technically rulebook abiding) robbery.

Police: Thieves Robbed Homes Based On Facebook Posts [WMUR 9 via Slashdot]
(Thanks, Howard!)

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  1. womynist says:

    OMG that’s my town!

  2. eccsame says:

    Still, it doesn’t seem like the best way to find places to burglarize. I mean, just because someone posts about the sandwich they’re eating in Cancun doesn’t mean they don’t have a roommate at home eating a bowl of cereal and polishing his handgun.

    • Mortimer Changworth says:

      I polish my handgun all the time when I housesit for friends. One time it misfired at a vase, and that was the end of that friendship.

      • Traveshamockery says:

        You mean you didn’t keep your booger hook off the bang switch and it discharged at a vase. Right?

        • GearheadGeek says:

          Booger hook? That’s delightfully disgusting. I’m going to have to appropriate THAT euphemism. It’s highly unlikely that I’ll credit you when I use it. I apologize for that in advance.

    • Torgonius wants an edit button says:

      It’s not 100% efficient, but it’s a lot more efficient than just blindly casing neighborhoods looking for targets of opportunity.

      Now they can look at a short list of selected places that have a good chance of being prime targets.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Unless the status updates had specific GPS coordinates attached, and the requirement is that you are physically at that location when you post. In other words, I can’t update on Facebook that I’m at the mall if I’m really somewhere else because the GPS coordinates wouldn’t match up.

      • jesirose says:

        But that doesn’t “doesn’t mean they don’t have a roommate at home eating a bowl of cereal and polishing his handgun.”

        You’re not updating your NRA card carrying roommate’s facebook, are you? :)

    • Saltpork says:

      A real thief would also do his homework on the place and figure out if someone is there or not.

    • rpm773 says:

      I’m not sure who’d ultimately be more upset at a sudden break-in. The guy who’s on vacation, or the guy at home, interrupted while polishing his hand gun.

  3. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Thus further affirming that if you live alone, you should be extra cautious – these robbers wouldn’t have targeted families unless they could be certain every person living in one house was away.

    I am constantly reminded of this article http://www.wired.com/gadgets/wireless/magazine/17-02/lp_guineapig?currentPage=all whenever I read about the pitfalls of real-time status updates, especially if they’re associated with GPS coordinates. The most relevant part is when the writer, testing out the various location apps, is about to update his status and his wife asks him whether he’s going to let people know he’s going out of town, the side effect being that he would also be letting people know that his wife is alone in their home.

    It shows that when you post location-based status updates, what you’re saying isn’t the only thing you’re saying.

  4. eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

    I’m really surprised this is true. There have been very similar urban legends (thieves looking for correspondence from travel agencies, etc) for decades and it always seemed like an incredibly stupid way to do things. But many criminals are stupid, I guess.

    Wouldn’t a professional thief focus on how to enter the house safely, document whether there’s a dog, gun, security system, or nosy neighbor, and just…wait? Or are these thieves doing all of that, then going to a nearby coffeeshop and waiting for the homeowner to say they left to get a burrito?

    Again, this just seems like a great way to get caught. People reliably leave their house for 8-12 hours a day when they go to work, and a “plumber” entering a house during a Tuesday afternoon looks way less suspicious than at 12am on a Saturday.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I think you’re giving them too much credit. From the looks of the suspects, I don’t think they were really professionals.

    • Saltpork says:

      What you’re describing is typically how burglars operate(the plumber part).
      They either mimic skilled labor or movers, break in away from prying eyes, then open the front door or garage door and just go to work without anyone thinking anything of it because their van has a name on it.

    • Murph1908 says:

      You put the cart before the horse.

      What you do is scan facebook for people saying they are out of town. Use public records to find out where they live. Then go case their place and see if anyone is coming and going.

      Not case the place then check facebook.

      Think of it like you are working on sales. Randomly driving around at night looking for houses that might be unoccupied is like cold calling. Using facebook is like calling a list of leads. They all might not pan out (roommate is home, someone housesitting), but it could be more efficient.

      • eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

        I guess if they’re posting that they’re out of the country, that’s different (though I’d still argue you know little to nothing about the dog/nosy neighbor/security alarm stuff until doing so much casing that you would have noticed the homeowner’s out of town anyway).

        You still, often enough, wouldn’t know if/when the homeowner is coming back. Most Facebook statuses read like “OMG GREECE IS AWESOMEEEEEE” instead of “I shall return on the 17th.”

      • Big Mama Pain says:

        HAHA, nicely put- criminal cold calling : )

  5. apd09 says:

    There was an article a while ago and I wish I could find it that covered this, but took it a step further. They talked about saying you are out of town and also having pictures of your home so crooks know what type of TV, stereo, etc… you have not too mention wearing fancy jewelery in the photos so they know what to look for. The article also discussed how a GPS unit usually has the home address in it so people would steal the GPS out of the car, or the entire car, and drive to the house to rob it. It said alot of thefts like this occur from sporting event parking parking lots because the person was going to be away from the car for over 2 hours or more and it would give plenty of time to get to the house and rob it. And if you see a neighbors car in the driveway you would not be suspiciuos but even better for the thieves was seeing in a car a garage door opened because it usually gives access to the house.

    Basically the article discussed how technology is being used people by crooks and that you need to be careful what info you give out because you don’t know who is watching. Also to not store your home address in a GPS unit if you are going to be someplace for 2+ hours not being able to check your car.

    • Robofish says:

      I’ve heard that about the GPS units so I make sure to mark HOME as no where near home. Maybe something like a gas station near the off ramp so it still gets me to where I need to go, but the actual home point isn’t even close.

      • tbax929 says:

        I don’t even have my home listed as HOME on mine. It’s in there under someone else’s name. I’d tell you who, but I’d have to kill you.

    • mythago says:

      The GPS? Thieves can look up your address on your insurance papers, which you are a lot more likely to leave in the car than your GPS.

  6. pot_roast says:

    I’m pissed off about that call, especially since the league let a Seahawks TD stand after pretty much the exact same thing. :/

  7. Phil James says:

    i recently put up security cameras around my house, that same night someone broke into my car! i put the video on dvd and gave it to the cops! turns out it was a neighborhood kid that was braking into other peoples cars! i bet he was shocked when he got caught!

  8. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    If I want to say that I did something that would allow someone to pinpoint my location then I don’t say anything until after the fact. For example, I mentioned that I went to Dragon*Con in the Open Thread last Friday instead of saying I was at Dragon*Con on the Friday before.

  9. c!tizen says:

    FACEBOOK STATUS: OMG OMG OMG!!!! Just bought the BIGGEST FUCKING GUN EVER!!!

  10. winnabago says:

    Related: “Burglars watch your front door to see if you go out for milk, be sure to only enter/exit out the window!”

  11. c!tizen says:

    Gotta ask, what’s with the eyebrows? Those have to be the purdy-est mugshots ever taken.

  12. MongoAngryMongoSmash says:

    A blow up doll would put a stop to this kind of thing.

  13. MeowMaximus says:

    ROFL! Idiots using Facebook! I’m sure I’m going to get lambasted for this, but you jerks got what you deserved for posting information like “I’m not home” on your Facebook status. I am not condoning robbery, but this is like hanging a big sign on your front door saying “Burglars Welcome”.

    Word of advice: quit Facebook, Idiots.

    • kennedar says:

      I am on Facebook, but I never post anything with where I am or where I am going. I will often post afterwards that Mexico was great or I loved the movie but I will never post anything that would indicate when no one is home.

  14. Aph says:

    Bummed these guys got caught.

  15. Quantumpanda says:

    The easiest solution is to not make your Facebook posts public. If you limit them to Friends Only, that alone will massively reduce the chances of being picked out by a random thief looking for easy pickings.

    Of course, if the thief IS one of your friends, it doesn’t help much. But if you’re being robbed by people you consider your friends, you have more significant issues to work out than what you’re posting on Facebook.