Some Burglars Using Social Media to Find Targets, I-Team Survey Shows

You might want to think twice before posting photos of that new TV, computer or piece of jewelry to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Several thieves said they had used social media to case targets for break-ins when responding to a survey the I-Team sent to 500 convicted burglars in New York and New Jersey. More than 10 percent of those 57 respondents said they've logged on to find targets and good times to strike. 

It's just one of the findings in an unprecedented four-part I-Team series on burglaries in the tri-state (watch News 4 New York at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. for the latest stories).

Vincent Medina, one lifelong burglar who responded to the survey, said that while older criminals tend not to use social media to identify targets, some younger crooks might be more likely to do so.

"You don’t want to get on Facebook and say ‘We’re going on vacation,’" Medina said.

Medina said that he and more seasoned burglars are more likely to case a house by watching the place and its occupants for a good time to strike, more technologically savvy thieves could use apps like Google Maps, Facebook, Instagram and Foursquare to plan a break-in.

One burglar in Orange County, California, targeted at least 33 women he saw in public and using GPS data embedded in photos posted to Facebook and Instagram to get to their homes in 2015. Once he had an address, court records showed, he stole more than $250,000 in electronics and jewelry along with his victims’ underwear and bras.

Police across the country have been warning residents to be aware of what they post to social media. Police in Orange County cautioned women to check their settings on social media apps to disable location features after the rash or break-ins there.

And in Prince William County, a suburban Virginia county outside Washington, police warned residents to avoid publicly posting photos of new items or checking in on location-based apps because of the risk of being targeted by burglars.

Medina said he would warn homeowners to avoid posting that they’re going on vacation or posting about what they have inside their homes because they don’t know whether a friend or follower could be a potential burglar.

"You don’t want your neighbor to know because he could be a burglar," he said. "He’s got seven days to take whatever he wants (if you announce that you’re leaving on social media.)"

The I-Team sent the survey to 500 convicted burglars in New York and New Jersey. Fifty-seven sent back their responses. 

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