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computer criminalThink twice about revealing travel plans to your Facebook friends; some might be more interested in your vacant home than your vacation photos.

A New Jersey man reportedly used information posted on the Internet to carry out a home burglary against one of his Facebook friends. According to the Express-Times in Lehigh Valley, PA, 36-year-old Steven Pieczynski is accused of breaking into a Newtown, Pennsylvania home on September 27 while the homeowners were traveling. He was arrested yesterday at his place of employment.

Pieczynski, who is Facebook friends with the victims, learned of their upcoming vacation plans over the social networking site. When he found out that his home-owning Internet chums were going out of town, he took the opportunity to strike.

As the break-in was taking place, watchful neighbors noticed a suspicious-looking vehicle parked near the victims’ home. Neighbors recorded the license plate number of the strange car and gave the information to police after learning about the burglary; this led to Pieczynski’s arrest, ultimately proving that a few good neighbors trump several hundred online acquaintances any day of the week.

In a press release issued by the Office of the Hunterdon County Prosecutor, the New Jersey prosecutor handling the case, Anthony P. Kearns, warns travelers to refrain from advertising their vacation plans on Facebook. Says Kearns, “I commend the neighbors who were vigilant and recorded the vehicle information leading to the arrest of the defendant. At the same time, I want to take this opportunity to remind people to never post their vacation plans on any Internet Web site.”

We second that. In Keep Your Home Safe on Vacation, we impart the following tip: “Think twice about posting your detailed vacation plans on Twitter or Facebook — especially if that information is visible to Internet users other than your friends and family (and it probably is). Be careful what you say on your answering machine or voice mail too. Callers don’t need to know that you’re not home — they just need to know that you can’t come to the phone right now.”

If you must share your travel plans on Facebook, put the site’s privacy controls to good use. Manage who views your posts by sorting your Facebook friends into customized groups. For example, you can create a “Family” group of relatives and close buddies in the Privacy Settings section of your Facebook account. Then, when posting a status update on your wall, use the audience-selector dropdown menu to choose the Family group. Only those whom you’ve pegged as family will be able to see what you’ve posted.

– written by Caroline Costello

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