Avoiding cyber crime during the holidays

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - According to a recent study by Credit Sesame, four out of five burglars used popular social networking sites to find empty homes. Many said they looked at status updates or pictures posted on Facebook, Twitter or FourSquare to case homes. Before people delete their social networking accounts, the Jonesboro Police Department says they can avoid being a victim.

"Well, actually, I'm a Facebook addict – I will admit," Amy Pieralisi said.

Pieralisi admits checking her Facebook and Twitter accounts several times a day. "I'm on the Facebook and Twitter apps constantly, probably while I'm driving, which I shouldn't do," she added. "I don't work in an office. I work alone, get lonely (and) like to look at Facebook."

She stays informed on the latest news through Twitter, but only shares information with her closest friends on a completely private profile on Facebook.

"All you can see is my picture and email address," Pieralisi said.

"It's like a really big thing to get the most friends. Who has the most friends?" Detective Ernest Ward said.

Ward works with the JPD Criminal Investigations Division in the high-tech crime unit. He says some people treat friend requests like a game, but, by doing so, says people might as well invite strangers into their homes.

"This is how so many find houses to burglarize and find victims to victimize," Ward said.

He adds that it's no surprise to learn four out of five burglars admit to using social media to identify properties with absent homeowners. He says, though, that number could be higher during the holidays.

"I would say probably nine out of 10," Ward said of the likelihood burglars would use social media to case homes from their computers. He advises people to think before updating their status saying they're away from home or sharing a picture with location-tracking tags.

"If you've got to share all your personal life and what you're doing, do it after the fact, not before the fact," Ward said.

He also suggests that recent burglary victims check any social network postings about being away from home. He says they might want to edit down their friends or followers list to only people they truly know.

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