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Facebook Status: I've Just Been Robbed

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A couple's house was ransacked after they announced their evening plans on Facebook.

woman using computer

Keri McMullen and Kurt Pendleton left a status update on Facebook Saturday night that said they wouldn't be home because they were going to a concert. That night, they were robbed by a Facebook "friend" -- and it was all caught on tape.

Lori Getz: This couple's robbery started me thinking about how publicly we live our lives, and questioning whether or not it's a dangerous lifestyle.

So I did some investigating. I pulled up Twitter's search engine and typed "vacation." Simple enough. I quickly learned that on the day of my search, six people were either traveling to or traveling back from vacation. I then Googled a few of them and actually found two home addresses linked to the users on vacation. Could it be that easy? Yep!

Now for those of you who are concerned that I am giving the thieves ideas, it's too late. These thieves are not even cloaked in black ski masks hiding in the dark shadows. They are just hanging out online in places where people are talking about their "status."

Teenagers use Twitter, Facebook and MySpace as social calendars and keep their friends up to date about where they are going and what they are doing at all times. It's pretty voyeuristic, but it is reality. We need to mention to them that it is NOT a good idea to post private information in their status bars.

Now, do I fault Facebook for the couple's trouble? Of course not! That would be like being upset at my house if I'd decided to post a note on the front door saying I'd be gone for the week, and then came home to find the place ransacked.

Twitter and Facebook are powerful tools, and they have been instrumental in changing how we disseminate information -- worthy information. In fact, when the attacks in Mumbai occurred, you could follow it live on Twitter with real-time updates from people experiencing the event. (Not to mention the recent Iran protests, where Twitter was instrumental in not only keeping Iranians informed, but updating U.S. media.) PR firms and marketing gurus love their ability to send out tweets about the latest update or event. In fact, I'll be sending out a tweet of my own when this article is published.

It's not that we need to stop using this social medium; we just need to be thoughtful about how we use it. None of this has to be dangerous. We just need to be well informed of the risks in order to make the best decision possible. Me, personally, I think I'll keep the vacation information or concert plans off the 'net, just to be safe!

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7 comments so far | Post a comment now
nutmac March 25, 2010, 5:38 PM

The solution is simple. Enjoy the vacation (or activities) and update Facebook/Twitter AFTER.

Kat Gordon March 26, 2010, 9:43 AM

Right you are. In fact, in the news this week were stats about insurance rates going up 10% in the UK as a result of increased burglaries facilitated by social network status updates. Not only that, but some insurers are considering denying burglary claims if the homeowner essentially put out an A.P.B. that the house would be empty.

Julie March 26, 2010, 9:46 AM

Just did an interview with a woman who knows the ins-and-outs of Facebook. It’s aimed at families and their concerns about social media sites. She had some great tips on being secure online. (Have linked my name directly with the interview if anyone is interested.)

Will be sharing this page all over the place because I firmly believe that families need to be aware.

Totally agree with you; “It’s not that we need to stop using this social medium, we just need to be thoughtful about how we use it.” I’m constantly advising parents and kids to be cautious about what they put online because it does not go away, there is no “erasing the mistake.”

It’s possible for anyone to enjoy social media, we just have to be forward-thinking about what we intend to share with the world.

Robin March 26, 2010, 11:03 AM

A few weeks ago my SiL posted when her family is going to be away on vaction and I actually felt a little ill when I saw it. That is such a bad idea.

Anonymous March 26, 2010, 6:50 PM

The dummy shouldn’t have told the entire world!

pharmacy tech March 27, 2010, 1:02 PM

What a great resource!

theHuston April 26, 2010, 2:15 PM

Others have thought the same.

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