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Burglars used social network status updates to select victims

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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 substantiates concerns that users of location-based services such as 4Square and Facebook Places are giving away too much information. The risk that letting world+dog know that net users were away from home, eloquently highlighted by the PleaseRobMe.com mash-up of status updates from 4Square, now has a real-world example.

The New Hampshire burglars had stolen a specific type of firework during a series of home invasions last month. An alert off-duty cop is credited with breaking the case after he heard fireworks and investigated, discovering packaging that matched fireworks stolen in one of the burglaries. Warrants were obtained on the basis of this evidence leading to the arrest of three suspects and the recovery of between $100,000 and $200,000 in stolen property, including cash, electronic goods and ammunition, TV station WMUR 9 in New Hampshire reports.

The investigation remains ongoing and police hope to make further arrests. Police reckon the use of social networks by crooks to search for victims is unlikely to be isolated.

"Be careful of what you post on these social networking sites," said Capt. Ron Dickerson of Nashua police. "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." ®

Bootnote

The best home security advice on burglary prevention I'm familiar with comes from Malcolm X, who went to prison for burglary before becoming an often controversial but unarguably charismatic African American civil rights leader.

He said homeowners should leave their bathroom light on at night if they wanted to give the impression they were at home. A bathroom light is the only light in a house that can be on at any time and for any length of time.

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