Using social media for criminal behavior is nothing new, in fact we see it everyday. Thieves use social media and key words all the time to target victims’ homes or vehicles. The minute you post travel details, the thief begins planning his own trip . . . to your empty house. Your house can be found using Google Street View, the layout of your home can be evaluated from past real estate listings and maybe even details can be found about the type of alarm system you have.
Any expert will tell you, your biggest defense to all of this is being selective about the information you share via social media. Many people are careful with what they post and don’t foolishly post flight details and pictures from the airport. Remember what happened to Rob Gronkowski’s Foxboro home while he was at last year’s Super Bowl? That’s exactly what we’re talking about.
Similarly, most everyone will post pictures of their pets all over social media. Why do I bring this up? Because we see things like a large number of breed-specific thefts in a certain location in a single week, this tends to demonstrate that similar criminal activity is being aided by social media. It seems when people loose a pet their guard goes down and the details pour out all over social media.
To many people’s surprise and dismay, beloved lost pets are also stolen during the search and recovery process. It’s as simple as following only two Facebook pages for a dog thief to have more than enough insight into the vast bulk of New England’s lost dogs. You might think everyone who follows missing dog pages and posts has only the purest and most genuine of intentions. But taking such an altruistic view would be naive. Just in the past couple of years, I have seen at least a dozen dogs who were stolen during the recovery process.
Everyone in lost pet recovery, at least around here, tends to follow the same routine - post the missing pet on social media, then someone will tell them to make it global so they can share it and before you know it, your pet is all over the world in front of millions of people. Even on our facebook page, there are people following from Europe and beyond. But you ask . . . isn’t this a good thing because the more people who know my pet is missing, the more likely someone will see it and let me know? The answer is in some cases, yes. But right at the outset, you don’t know if a broad social media awareness campaign is more helpful or harmful. It's just as likely someone will see your post and try to find your dog before you do and hold it for reward money or worse.
Theft isn’t the only problem with using social media for a lost pet. Well intentioned people will also hinder your search and trapping efforts. Either by chasing the dog around, scaring it from location to location or by leaving food out. So before you post a dog to social media in a panic stop and think about the consequences.