Burglars Are Following You on Facebook


When my daughter’s wedding drew the family out of town for an extended weekend, I should have realized that my home’s security was as fragile as the family’s emotions.

The mail and the six newspapers I receive each day were dutifully picked up by a neighbor. A few lights were strategically left on in the house. The alarm system was engaged. Yet as I was getting set to walk Stephanie down the aisle, my cellphone vibrated with news from the alarm company that our house was experiencing an active burglary. The culprit, I’m convinced, was social media.



Photo:

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Our newly married daughter has absorbed a few words of my wisdom over the years, but I’ve never been able to modify her behavior when it comes to PDA: public displays of addresses. Her life is an open

Facebook
.

By the time Instagram and

Twitter

joined Facebook with detailed pings about the time and place of the wedding, would-be burglars had a digital road map of our whereabouts. Making matters worse, a story in a big national newspaper that morning stated the date of the wedding, the precise location, and the community where our vacant house could be found.

I later learned from neighbors that—several hours before the burglars arrived—thieves also stole five cartons of wedding gifts that Crate & Barrel had left on the stoop.

Last fall the Los Angeles Police Department investigated a spate of residential burglaries targeting actors, producers and professional athletes. “Initially it was believed that the homes were being burglarized at random,” the LAPD stated. But after investigation it was revealed that “the victims’ homes had been selected based on social media postings.”

An August 2018 article in London’s Telegraph included this disconcerting bit of information: “Insurers are increasingly rejecting claims made by customers whose houses have been burgled while on holiday if they have shared the fact that they are away from home on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.” The report cited a survey showing that a surprisingly high number of Britons had been burgled after posting their location abroad on social media.

In Houston, seven people were charged over the summer in connection with a social media-based burglary ring. Detectives determined that the criminals would search social media for posts indicating when homeowners would be at work or on vacation.

I’ve never understood the motivation of those who share their every move on Facebook—from the moment they arrive at the restaurant to the moment the desert is served. Can’t it wait a few hours until you get home? I’m inclined to think it’s a generational thing, but I have acquaintances of all ages who are obsessed with this sort of here-I-am posting.

Long before social media there were “obituary bandits” who scoured death notices and robbed homes while the owners were at funerals. Today the full range of life events, from graduations to weddings to reunions, are easy pickings for crooks eyeing social media.

What can one do? Not long after we returned home from the wedding, I received an unsolicited email from Facebook inviting me to join my neighborhood’s “Crime Watch Group.”

Mr. Funt is a writer and host of “Candid Camera.”

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