Admit it, you’re as addicted to social media as the rest of us. We can’t get through a day without checking our friend’s Tweets, their Facebook pictures and status updates, their Foursquare check-ins, and networking through Linked In.
However, as much as we are trolling the Internet for this information, so are burglars.
Social Media is the biggest culprit in this age of digital oversharing. More and more burglars are using social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter to target their victims. Status updates alert criminals to expensive purchases, when you’ll be out of the house, and where you’re going on vacation. “Four out of five criminals said social media websites were being used by burglars. However, the same number said a simple home alarm would have deterred them from targeting the property in the first place.”
Think you are safe because your profile is private? Many criminals use “fake names and photos on Facebook and befriend anyone” who will accept. A police source said,”Many people on Facebook just accept friend requests even if they don’t know who they are.” Do you personally know every contact on your friend’s list? Better check!
Burglars are using the technology of satellite imagery, such as Google Maps and Google Earth, to study their next hits. Yes, Google Maps is showing a burglar where to break in, and their escape route. Below, on the UK My Property Guide, a burglar shares his tactics:
How Google Maps helps me to rob houses
I scan for roads that contain large expensive properties that are well positioned for access and escape. These are some of the features that I’ll be looking for:
- Roads that back on to open spaces
- Roads containing primarily detached properties
- Proximity to a main road (for a quick exit)
I can see immediately that there are several large open spaces in the borough and many are surrounded by roads which house large detached properties. A few more minutes searching and I have what I believe to be the perfect road (the cul-de-sac to the right of the picture). As you can see in the screenshot below it fulfills all four of the main criteria
How to select the perfect house
What I need is a property that will reveal more of itself as I search. Recently sold properties have 2 distinct advantages; there is lots of data available on them and they tend to be filled with lots of new stuff. I start by compiling a list of the properties which have sold in the target road in recent years. Next I download the title plan so that I can plot the sold properties on my satellite image.
Now that I know which properties are which I switch to the birds eye view on the mapping software and take a good look at the front and rear elevations. This is invaluable information for planning access and escape. Of the properties that have recently sold just one of them is in what I would consider to be the most desirable part of the road i.e. backing on to open space. So we now have our target property.
How I choose my access point
As my target property was sold in recent times it was likely to have appeared on the website of at least one of the local agents. The internet archive allows me to go back in time and view those websites as they would have looked just before the sale date. In no time at all I have details for my target property. I instantly recognise it from the close up birds eye view that I have.
Fortunately the agent has provided a good quality picture of the rear of the property which shows me that there are three pairs of double doors. The internal picture confirms that they are of modern uPVC type. This is good news as most uPVC doors can be sprung with a crow bar in a few seconds without making much noise.
Real Estate Listings
This brings us to our next point, real estate listings. In recent years, any person can hop online and browse YOUR home or business for sale. For burglars, this is a guide often containing floor plans, and pictures of escape routes, from doors to gardens. A burglar says, “It is very comforting to study a plan of the property in advance as I will want to be in and out as quickly as possible to minimise the chances of being disturbed.”
Whether the property just sold or is currently on the market, real estate listings can make anyone feel like a super sleuther, learning intimate information about the property. Below, the burglar continues sharing how Google Maps and the real estate listing have provided the perfect getaway.
How to plan the perfect getaway
The satellite images have already shown me that my best exit route will be through the back garden and across the park where my partner in crime will be waiting to collect me on the busy road. The only imponderable was the height of the boundary at the end of the garden but the agent’s shot down the garden from the master bedroom has cleared that one up. The low hedge at the end of the garden will not pose too much of a problem.
The picture also tells me that there are double doors with a Juliet balcony to the master bedroom. This is a nice bonus as if I were unlucky enough to be caught in the act I could be out those doors and in to the garden before the owners even got upstairs.
GPS devices are easy “grab-and-go” stolen items for several reasons:
1. They can be easily sold to a fence man for cash.
2. Often, your home address is programmed right into the device. Not only does it give them step-by-step directions to your home, is it likely you are away since a burglar just stole it from your parked car. For safety reasons, it is often better to program your home address with a code name, like “Home Improvement Store”, so burglars won’t be tipped off.
Powerline Device Takeover
For those super tech savvy burglars, a new device was introduced at DefCon, a conference for hackers, called a powerline device takeover. It is said to be able to “tap into home powerlines to monitor and control home alarm and security camera systems. Using the device and broadband-over-powerline technology, burglars could plug the device into an electric outlet on the outside of a house and monitor devices inside the home. They could deduce, for example, that if the alarm system is turned on and security cameras activated then the residents are not at home. The device can send signals that jam signals from the security devices, leaving burglars free to break in without worry that alarms will be set off.”
We present these burglar technology cracks not with the intentions of scaring anyone, but to help make you aware and prepared! The best protection is prevention, and this includes continually learning how to prevent and avoid a burglary happening to you. Sometimes, it can be as simple as not talking about your upcoming vacation to Cancun on Facebook!