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Actual Facebook Bandits

09/24/2010

photo by bixentro

Earlier this year, the site Please Rob Me, warned that status updates left on social networks could leave your home exposed. The site did so by crawling publicly posted status updates and re-posted that information on their site for all to see. The folks there claim that they were looking to illustrate a pretty basic and low-tech crime that might be overlook by many – any unsavory character could read a status update, deduce that you are away from your home and break into your house. At the time I was curious to see if any real examples had been reported, but could find any.

The New York Times recently picked up a report from Nashua, New Hampshire where criminals used Facebook as an informant to let them know when people were away from home.

According to New Hampshire’s WMUR Channel 9 News, three local men, Mario Rojas, Leonardo Barroso and Victor Rodriguez, have burglarized more than 18 homes in the Nashua area of New Hampshire simply by checking status updates on Facebook and then pillaging the houses of victims who announced on the social network that they were not home.

So it seems this risk is real and unfortunately, these 18 homes were affected by criminals who took advantage of this vulnerability. I wonder – how should we mitigate this risk in the future?

Surely some will propose that we abandon social networking sites entirely in favor of anonymity. To me that is akin to never going on vacation again because it leaves your house empty. I’m betting that few people would be in favor of that. Instead, we have come up with things we can do to minimize the risk of leaving our homes unattended, like stopping paper and mail delivery, locking the doors and putting our lights on timers or motion sensors.

Reading an article like this reinforces the reasons why it’s a good idea to continue to spread the word about good practices in social networking. Insurance professionals are in the business of helping people mitigate risk, and this may be an area that you could assist on. Just like you might remind clients to have their chimney cleaned, you might remind clients to be smart about sharing info on the web.

Reminders:

  1. Understand the security settings in each site.
  2. Censor updates based on who you share with. Do you share with only people you know? Or do you share with anyone?
  3. Remember that to some degree…all updates are public.
  4. Don’t publish your home address or phone number.

Have clients or carriers begun to ask about the risks of social networking? Are your prepared to answer them? What else might you add to this list?

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Looking for a more hands on learning experience when it comes to the social web? Then you’ll want to attend or send someone from the agency to the Agency Internet Boot Camp on November 30th. This is a great opportunity to get in some hands on learning with Steve Anderson, a leader in the agency technology field.

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