News 12 Special Assignment at 6 o'clock, November 23, 2009

Thousands of you have befriended us at News 12 using the popular social networking site Facebook. With more than 300 million users on the site and more than 45 million status updates every day, what you're posting in your update could be opening up a whole new door to trouble.

Facebook status updates seem simple enough. You post what you're doing and where you're going. But paired with some personal information and the help of Google, you could be opening the door to your home for potential Facebook burglars.

It's that time of the year again when you're packing to leave town for the holidays but not before updating your Facebook status.

Whether it's going to grandma's, headed to the mountains or simply out for dinner with the family; posting where you're going and for how long could be costly.

"It's so easy because they give you information and you can pinpoint them. We've got Google earth, Google street, we can pinpoint where anybody lives, just by having a little bit of information out of them," said reformer burglar Michael Fraser.

News 12 used Skype to talk with reformed burglar Michael Fraser from his home in England. He was the star of the hit BBC show "Beat the Burglar". After years of staging burglaries overseas Michael says Facebook status updates are a "digital criminals'" dream come true.

"What you find with Facebook is people tend to want to divulge things even if you're a stranger," said Fraser

Experts say there are 5 personality profiles digital criminals target:

  1. The "animal lover" who'll post tons of pictures with their pet and in some cases let criminals know they may have a dog door.

  2. The "chatterbox" will share information with anyone.

  3. The "new joiners" and

  4. "the loners" are desperate to build their friend list.

  5. And finally "the holiday snapper" will talk about holiday plans and share pictures with family and the world. These people may also clearly have possessions in the pictures that may be worth stealing.

"I'm honestly just as guilty. I just came back from a family vacation where I was posting pictures, saying we're doing this, we're doing that, and I actually never thought about somebody knowing I'm not home now," said Jeff Mastromonico, USC-Aiken Director of Visual Communications.

A recent study done by "Legal and General" shows about 64 percent of people who use Facebook will use their status updates to reveal holiday plans. It's a startling number people like Jeff Mastromonico is using to warn social networkers as potential criminals try to make them targets.

"Despite privacy settings and things like that you may have in place, there's a chance people can see the information that you're putting on there," said Mastromonico.

Experts say it only takes about two minutes for a professional criminal to burglarize a home using your profile information. News 12 wanted to take a closer look at how accurate the search would be, so we put the plan into action.

News 12: "Do you know how I found you, Mr. Cornell?"
Cornell Harris: "How did you find me?"
News 12: "On your Facebook page. We're doing a story about how people are using people's information on Facebook to potentially rob them. It was so easy to find you."
Cornell: "Oh my goodness. I guess i got quite a bit of information out there."

It's quite a bit of information that millions around the world are sharing and it's information that's giving more than just an update.

News 12: "You think you're going to change things around, Mr. Cornell?"
Cornell: "Yea, yea. I 'm going to look at some things and sort of change things."

So next time when you edit your status, be aware of what you're posting, because someone could be watching and waiting to move in. Experts say the main way to protect yourself is don't post information about yourself that you wouldn't be willing to tell a complete stranger about you in person.


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