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Social Media Quick Tip: How to Get Arrested Using Social Media

The relatively short history of social media is rife with tales of criminal misadventure

Did you hear the one about the burglar who was identified (and arrested) because he checked his Facebook page at the house he robbed and forgot to log out before he left with the loot? That one dates back to 2009.

More recent is the story of Matthew Oliver. This guy is no rocket scientist either. Earlier this month, when the Pasco Sheriff’s Office posted his wanted photo on Facebook, he responded to his own wanted post:

“You guys are going to pay for… believing a crackhead and… slandering my name,” Oliver wrote on the sheriff’s office Facebook page. “Pasco County has nothing but fools investigating crimes for them that’s why these mix up[s] happen.” ~Matthew Oliver

After spending a weekend in jail, Matthew Oliver reminds all his friends that he remains No. 1.

There are literally dozens of stories of people making it way to easy for police to file charges while providing immense entertainment for the rest of us.

Here are a few notables:

In Chicago, a 15 year-old kid was arrested recently after he threatened a “mass homicide” if George Zimmerman were to be found not guilty of killing Trayvon Martin. He was charged with a class 4 felony.

Another teen in Astoria, Oregon went to jail after he posted on Facebook: “drivin drunk… classic; but to whoever’s vehicle I hit I am sorry. :P” after a night of drinking.

Two tourists from the UK had their vacation cut short after one of them tweeted, “I’m going to destroy America and dig up Marilyn Monroe”. When they landed in Los Angeles, they were greeted, detained and then sent home in spite of having explained that “destroy” is British slang for party.

My favorite is the story of Angela Voelkert. She created a fake Facebook profile, “Jessica,” and friended her ex-husband with it in order to get some dirt on him in their child custody battle. Her ex, David, posted a chat message to “Jessica” that he was going to track his ex-wife with a GPS device and kill her. Angela Voelkert took that post to the FBI who arrested him. However, after four days in jail, he was released when he showed the feds a sworn affidavit explaining he knew it was a ruse all along and lied to trap her:

“the lies that I am placing in this chat [are]… proof what my ex-wife has been doing, so this will be part of such. In no way do I have plans to leave with my children or do any harm to Angela Dawn Voelkert or anyone else.” ~David E. Voelkert

Not so funny is the real murder-for-hire that transpired on Facebook when Christine Metter and her father tried to hire her former high school friend to kill her husband. She is currently serving 10 years and her father nine.

Meanwhile, after spending the weekend in a Pasco County jail, Matt Oliver changed his profile photo to one of himself flipping the bird at the photographer.

Whom could that be for? I wonder.

This Social Media Quick Tip was previously published on LawOfficer.com

How cops used Twitter to catch a fish called Wanda

Catch me if you can

I’ve posted before about criminals at large taunting police on social media, with varying degrees of success.

The case of Wanda Lee Ann Podgurski is a worthy addition to the catologue.

Ms Podgurski is a serial fraudster who was convicted in January 2013 of dishonestly acquiring $650,000 from fake insurance and disability claims.

She promptly went on the run.




This time it’s personal

Wanda set up a Twitter account and followed just one other tweeter – San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.

Like any good new Tweeter, she carefully crafted her profile description:

“On the run, possibly in Iran.”

before tweeting

The US Marshals Fugitive Task Force was able to trace her tweet to Mexico and promptly arrested her, leaving the DA the last word on Twitter:

Read a full version of this story here.

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Social Media is The New Face of Disaster Response [Infographic]

Did you know that 76% of survivors of natural disasters use social media to let their friends know they’re safe? You can find more interesting facts about social media’s role in the wake of a natural disaster, including Sandy, in the following infographic developed by University of San Francisco’s Masters of Public Administration department. The infographic was most recently used in a congressional hearing shown on C-SPAN, demonstrating the importance of social media in a natural disaster.

Social Media Quick Tip: Facebook's 'Graph Search' Raises Privacy Concerns

Facebook rolled out what it calls “graph search” last week, effectively turning user profiles inside out. Graph search was announced earlier this year but rolled out to the masses a few days ago. Facebook has a page on how graph search affects privacy, but surprise, surprise, they leave a lot out.

The best way to understand it is to try a few searches. As examples, put in “police officers who live in ” or “photos of ” and see the wealth of information you get. The important thing to understand is that each search is tailored to each user. So two people making the same searches will get different results. It all depends on how the searcher is personally linked to the subjects being searched.

Graph search doesn’t allow people to see any more than they would be able to otherwise, but it certainly makes it easier to find it and serves it all up at once. This is all the more reason to make sure your Facebook settings are locked down on your personal profiles.

Have you hidden your friends lists and your “likes” to prying eyes? Have you set your tagging so you can review tags of yourself and turned off facial recognition? Have you managed the settings of what others share about you? Have you prevented search engines from linking to your timeline? Have you gone through your entire timeline and limited the audience, deleted them or untagged yourself in photos? Have you limited who sees your future posts? If this sounds foreign to you, you’re likely open to the world.

And make no mistake, Facebook is sure to be adding to what information it can pull about its members into the graph search. Imagine if facial recognition is added, then all those photos your friends and family have posted of you that you think no one will ever see are suddenly fair game. Furthermore, there is no setting to opt out of graph search.

Graph search also has huge implications on child crimes. Facebook prevents profiles with ages set under 18 from being searchable by adults. But, as you know, stalkers and sexual predators create fake profiles anyway. If they set their age setting to between 13 and 17, graph search will present them a far greater access to potential victims.

Of course, the flip side is, this works in an investigator’s favor as well.

This Social Media Quick Tip was previously published on LawOfficer.com

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How burglars use social media

Burglars go online to pinpoint potential victims

Criminals and law enforcement officials are early adopters of new technologies and social media in particular in their battle to outwit each other.

With recent revelations about PRISM and the activities of GCHQ you would think that law enforcement would have most to gain from the latest digital developments.

Surely, some time soon we’ll be living in a version of Minority Report where cops intervene before the crime is committed?

However, that Utopia (Dystopia?) seems to be a few years away.

In the meantime, there are plenty of ways in which burglars in particular can develop their lean systems to target and gather intelligence on potential victims and minimise the risks of getting caught.

  1. Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare are particularly straightforward ways of finding out if someone is away on holiday or business.
  2. Google StreetView makes advance reconnaissance a piece of cake.
  3. GPS data automatically embedded in social media platforms and photos provides further opportunities

The infographic below summarises some of the main techniques in current use.

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