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Please Rob Me: Newspaper 'Vacation Hold' Edition

A couple of years ago, I discussed the website "Please Rob Me" here. Please Rob Me was launched with the mission of demonstrating that users of geolocation services such as Foursquare who saw fit to broadcast their location ("I'm at the Grand Canyon!") were, simultaneously, announcing to the world that they were not at home. In its heyday, the Please Rob Me website provided a real-time feed of people checking in with geolocation services, half-jokingly presenting this list of people who were not at home as "opportunities" for robbers. 


After raising some awareness of the issue, the Please Rob Me site stopped providing the feed noted above. As I noted in follow-up posts, however, there are numerous old-school ways that people say "Please Rob Me" to the world. These include listing a funeral or wedding in the newspaper, as astute robbers also read newspapers and have been known to strike houses while the residents are at the funeral home or the wedding reception. These also can include signing up for a cruise. In 2010, a cruise line employee was arrested for burglarizing the homes of 24 vacationers after using the company's reservation system to learn who was on board the cruise -- and therefore not at home.

Today I saw another example of using information about people's location against them, when four men were arrested for using the Los Angeles Times "vacation hold" list to target and burglarize subscribers who would not be at home. CBS News reports that one of the men arrested worked as a contracted office machine repairman for the paper's distributors, and was able to steal the vacation hold list from distributor warehouses. He then allegedly gave the names and addresses of the vacationing homeowners to three suspected thieves, who are all now in custody. The scheme allowed the burglars to allegedly hit at least 25 homes over a three year period in California. 

Posted by Bruce Carton on January 31, 2013 at 04:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)


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