As social media popularity explodes around the world, so too does the use of these platforms for criminal activities. For most, it’s simply a way to keep in touch with friends and family from around the globe. Because of this, many are eager to share their thoughts, stories, and photos without considering how these details can affect their safety. For instance, a parent may proudly post pictures of their toddler at home, in the park, and at various events. Through these images, any viewer can likely determine their address, schedule and perhaps even the layout of their home.
Recently, a group of sly thieves employed this technique to conduct an Ocean’s 11-style heist in a wealthy city neighborhood. The men began by monitoring online photos of homes to determine which residents owned pricey art or other valuables. While photos inside a house may intend to highlight a group of friends, cooking success or pet, a collection of images can provide a thorough list of household valuables.
After finding out which areas had costly sculptures and paintings, the crew watched their accounts to view any upcoming business trips, family vacations or parties. Alarmingly, the group even attended events that were publicly referenced on the homeowners’ profiles. This allowed them to get an up-close view of the pieces they planned to steal and determine the best layout through the home.
Prior to the actual theft, the men conducted trial runs around homes and in some cases, broke in multiple times and wandered the property. Each member of the gang had set roles and through their devious organization were able to steal priceless paintings including a piece by French impressionist Claude Monet, whose other work hangs in galleries around the world and another worth $400,000.
Police were finally able to catch the bandits after going public with details and photos of the stolen items. Though not every household will have similar high-end collectibles, the startling event should serve as a reminder to the dangers of social media. Though the user’s intentions may be innocent, crafty criminals are able to compile a disturbing amount of details about an individual from their public profiles.
In addition, police also used the incident to warn the public on the common practice of burglars: closely monitoring homes before a real attack. Though victims may not realize it, crooks usually watch a property prior to a break-in to better understand the inhabitants’ schedules, the best point of entry and the level of activity in the neighborhood.
Though an alarm system can eliminate much of these threats, it’s always prudent to exercise caution. After all, the art thieves brazenly attended events at their victim’s home and could have easily swiped smaller possessions during this time. In addition to this, insurance companies are becoming more aware of the dangers of online oversharing. Businesses are already talking about monitoring a customer’s profile in order to determine their rates and ability to file a claim.
Overall, a private approach is the best – and safest – attitude for the online world.