Guest Post: Lessons in Avoiding Fashion Theft (and other Crimes) from The Bling Ring

Hang on to your hats!

Forget The Goonies. These days, kids are stumbling upon a lot more than secret treasure and it’s not by accident. On June 14th, The Bling Ring hit theaters. The film, based on real-life events, details the capers carried out by a group of teens in Calabasas, California. Certainly, young people have always been committing crimes. Petty theft is a common offence often carried out by minors. What set this group of adolescents apart from run-of-the-mill girls and boys gone bad was their success rate and the value of their loot.

These kids weren’t born on the wrong side of the tracks and struggling to make ends meet. They stole enough to make Bonnie and Clyde blush – more than $3 million in clothing, jewelry, accessories and more from celebrity targets including Paris Hilton. What also differentiates the Bling Ring from other delinquents is the teens’ shrewd usage of social media. Although no one would mistake them for computer science experts, they still had the know-how to exploit the online activities of major Hollywood celebrities.

In multiple cases, the Ring walked through unlocked doors. However, some simple Internet sleuthing aided their success, as well. A goldmine of personal information is available online and easily accessible. You don’t have to be a seasoned hacker to find personal details about various people, both ordinary folks and celebrities.

The social media threat

Social media is something of a hunting ground for online predators. People willingly share personal details via Facebook, Twitter and other platforms on a daily basis. The Bling Ring exploited social media to target celebrities. Determining which nights famous Hollywood faces would be out on the town, the teenagers knew exactly when certain celebrities weren’t home to protect their valuables.

You can help protect your possessions by exercising restraint online. Don’t tell the Internet community that you’re away from home, either just for the night or on a weeklong vacation. Refrain from posting public photos of any particularly valuable belongings. Remember that technology can collect your information to customize displayed advertising, too. Social media is frequently used as a weapon by bullies and stalkers, as well.

Dos and don’ts of privacy

In this age, popularity may be partially measured by Facebook friends and Twitter followers, but keep a low profile. Have different passwords for all usernames. Make various accounts private or limit your followers to only people you know personally. You don’t have to be an online hermit — just limit your social media circle when sharing personal information.

Privacy is crucial for a number of reasons. Hackers can steal Social Security and credit card numbers. In addition to identity theft, predators sometimes target minors online. Children need to be told to never give out personal information on the Internet.

Keeping yourself safe online simply hinges on using common sense. Feel free to share your opinions on the latest summer blockbuster, but don’t tell the public that you’re going to be on vacation in Barbados for the next two weeks. Also consider taking advantage of identity theft protection services. Advanced technology can work in your favor by keeping an eye on your assets and alerting you of any suspicious activity. If your information is stolen, your provider can help you with damage control.

Brian has been working in the personal security field for 6 years and has a particular interest in where cyber and personal security collide. Feel free to reach out to him here.

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