Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Facebook Bandits

Candace and Robert Landreth are sociable people, so it was no surprise when old high school acquaintances began receiving friend requests from them on Facebook. (After all, who hasn’t browsed an old classmate’s account to discover what career path they chose or reassure yourself that their spouse is not as attractive as your own?) So former cohorts would gladly accept the requests and then go about their normal social networking behavior which, of course, routinely involved sharing more information than they should.

So when several people’s homes in the area were burglarized, police began noticing a disturbing pattern. In every instance the homes occupants were out of town, usually on vacation giving the perpetrators all the time they needed to relieve said homes of valuable goods. At first local law enforcement believed they were dealing with a meticulous and cunning criminal syndicate utilizing a complex information network to ascertain the whereabouts of intended victims and evade capture. As it turns out, they were simply dealing with a pair of middle-aged citizens astute enough to steal from people who voluntarily posted on the Internet that they were out of town.

According to authorities, the Landreth gang would simply wait for a Facebook friend to announce their location (“The whole family is boarding a flight to Des Moines!”) before cracking open said family’s back door and unburdening them of their possessions. In an ironic twist, the sheriff’s department used social networking to identify the alleged thieves by posting surveillance video of the two on their Facebook page. Eventually a citizen recognized the Landreths and provided authorities with a lead. The pair was charged with burglary and grand larceny and is currently awaiting trial. 
The Landreth Gang
While I feel sympathy towards anyone who has had the sanctity of their home violated, perhaps we can all take away some life lessons here:
1.      Publicly announce you went out of town after you get back to town – I can think of no better reconnaissance for a potential thief than a geo-tagged photo of you and your entire family in Cancun with the caption “Just 4 more days in paradiseL.” You might as well post an iPhone pic of your Hide-A-Key and openly muse about how you have started hoarding cash and precious metals.
2.      Don’t list your home address on your profile – How many times will a circumstance arise where an online-only acquaintance from your past needs to know where your children sleep? There are blood relatives that do not have my home address, so I am definitely not going to voluntarily give it to small-time hash dealer I had PhysEd with in 8th grade.
3.      Don’t post photos every time you acquire valuable electronics – The only thing better than knowing someone is out of town is being able to predict your profit margin ahead of time. Unless you plan to invite me over for movie night, I could care less that you recently purchased an 84-inch Bavarian LED television with the HyperRender 4D interface. That information impacts my life about as much as your decision to change deodorant would.
4.      Stop pretending all 700 of you “friends” are above-board – One victim expressed shock that one of her “friends” from high school would do this to her, as if someone’s geographical proximity to you as a teenager has any bearing on their personal integrity. That’s like asking someone to watch your wallet just because you recognize them from the dentist’s office. Often these are the same people that will spend hours combing over their privacy settings and alert everyone when Facebook changes the policy.
It would not even shock me if a few of the victims updated their status after the break-in was discovered with something like:

We got robbed!!!! Can’t believe it will be 2 days b4 the locksmith can fix the backdoor. Guess I will have to put my jewelry in a Triscuit Box while we are at the park all-day tomorrow!   #friendlydog   #unobservantneighbors     #onlyboughtthesignandnottheactualalarmsystem 

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