Twitter posts leave us targets

SAVVY online predators are being given the equivalent of a master key to your home as more of us reveal our every move online.

Website and mobile phone application Foursquare announces a person’s whereabouts by publishing it on social networking site Twitter.

This information can then be searched anonymously by anyone who opens up the website.

The Daily put it to the test with remarkable ease.

Designed as a tool to allow users to know if they’re near friends, Foursquare may also tell thieves when your house is unoccupied.

In an experiment conducted by the Daily, a Coast suburb was searched through Twitter, with a Brisbane visitor announcing to the world that he was at a local bakery.

By navigating to his personal website, we discovered his age and the city he lived in and a hunt through the White Pages unearthed his address and phone number.

The process took about five minutes.

To highlight how easy it was to stalk somebody on the internet, an American website, Please Rob Me, was set up and described “every empty house out there”.

This week Australian police have launched National Consumer Crime Week which aims a spotlight on how vulnerable we are when we’re at the keyboard.

Queensland Police Fraud and Corporate Crime Group Detective Acting Superintendent David Scott said he wasn’t shocked by how easy it was to find a stranger’s personal details.

“I’m not surprised it was so easy. That’s the importance of Fraud Week,” he said.

“You’ve done it quickly, identifying his address in 10 minutes and you could have been breaking into the house half an hour later.

“I think it’s very risky behaviour to give up intimate and personal details because you put your safety at risk.

“If they’re open and honest, they might reveal their name, date-of-birth and address.

“That identity can be used to open a bank account and then you’re a victim of fraud.”

Acting Detective Senior Sergeant Kim Cavell of Sunshine Coast CIB said locals often were falling victim to online scams from overseas.

“There’re so many avenues and you have every opportunity to have your identity stolen or manipulated,” she said.

“It’s something we take as a real threat.”

University of Sunshine Coast communications lecturer Anna Potter said she knew about the Please Rob Me website and warned of new and convenient phone programs that could put people at risk.

“You can say where you are and it will tell you where the nearest restaurant or fuel is, but your location is constantly being revealed,” she said.

“You wouldn’t put a lot of personal details on a billboard in the middle of the street and this is on a global scale.”

The Brisbane man tracked down via his Foursquare and Twitter accounts said he was wary of putting information online but refused to be paranoid about it.

He said it might be easy to find out where he was, but Twitter hunters wouldn’t know if his wife or kids were at home.

After being contacted by the Daily, the man said he would now make his home number private.


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