Gang uses Facebook to rob houses

Even with new privacy controls, many users are still vulnerable to snoopers; here's how to check if you're sharing too much

Leaving the house this weekend? Telling all your Facebook buds about it? You might want to reconsider that.

Police in Nashua, New Hampshire broke up a robbery ring this week that was using Facebook to plan their heists. The gang was monitoring Facebook pages to determine when a target would be out of their home and then robbed it. Some 50 home robberies were reported in the city with a population of 85,000 during August alone, although only 18 have been linked to the Facebook gang so far. As a result of breaking up the gang, Police say they've recovered $100,000 to $200,000.

Although, Facebook has made progress in tightening up its privacy controls, many users still leave themselves vulnerable to snoopers. Just how vulnerable can be seen by going a website called Openbook. It will scour public Facebook pages for keywords. For example, by searching on vacation, you could discover Facebook members catching a little R&R and with a little more research, find where their vacated home is located.

Earlier this year, another website, PleaseRobMe, demonstrated how the location of online gamers could be tracked using Twitter. It aggregated tweets that used a social networking game called Foursquare to announce when players left their homes. For casing a break-in, tracking tweets sure beats sitting in a parked car outside a victim's house. Currently, PleaseRobMe appears to be on hiatus.

For Facebook members, there are third-party tools for protecting their privacy. ReclaimPolicy, for instance, will scan your Facebook settings and let you know where your privacy is at risk. However, the program hasn't been updated since Facebook changed its privacy controls, so its results may have to be implemented manually. SaveFace takes a simple approach to Facebook privacy. It simply sets all privacy controls to "friends only."

By the way, although the burglary gang in Nashua was smart enough to use Facebook to set up their robberies, their smarts seemed to stop there. As part of their purloined spoils were a specific brand of firecracker which they couldn't resist setting off in a public place. An off-duty police officer heard the racket and from the scene of the explosions was able to track down the first of three suspects in the case. Police say more arrests are expected.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Internet-based applications and serviceslegalsocial mediainternetcybercrimeFacebook

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John P. Mello Jr.

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?