Smart phones helping crooks rob you

By Evrod Cassimy – bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If you have a smart phone, a thief may be watching your every move, right now and waiting for the perfect time to steal from you.

It's all thanks to the phones technology, known as a geotag. A geotag uses the GPS location on your phone and your social networks whether you know it or not. Your exact location can be updated as often as you update your status, and the things you post could make you a crooks next target.

From Blackberries, to iPhones and even the new Droid, smart phones can do just about everything these days. By using GPS technology, they can also give you directions. But this new technology can also give directions to the wrong person. Doing the simplest thing on your cell phone can allow crooks to steal from you.

"You can actually know, literally all day long, where someone is and what they're doing without them even having to openly share that information," said one computer expert.

As social networks like Twitter and Facebook become more and more popular, people are taking their status updates on the go. Some even attach photos with the use of the camera on their smart phone. But these photos show more than just what's in the picture.

In one photo we found online from someone named Miss Wendy Williams on Twitter is captioned "I love the ocean!" But anyone can see that at the bottom of the photo, it was taken in Virginia Beach, more specifically right at the corner of 35th Street and Pacific Avenue. This geotag is sometimes automatically added to status updates and even photo updates. The crooks are watching so be careful what you're sharing.

"You can very easily disable geotagging applications on your iPhone," added the expert. "First step is to know what they are. The most common way to disable geotags is to know which applications use that service."

Applications like Twitter's 4square and Twitpic use it, so does Facebook's new Places application. Trevor Dickerson knows firsthand the dangers of having geotags turned on especially if the user has no idea.

"I was doing it for a while but then you know...sometimes I will turn it on per tweet but I definitely don't have it on at home," said Dickerson.

You might remember back in February we spoke with Trevor about being stalked on Twitter. His phone's geotag location was published to twitter using an app called 4square. Today he's taking precautions to protect his safety.

"If I'm somewhere by myself, somewhere where it's not going to be a secure situation if somebody were to come by it's not going to be something I publish," added Dickerson.

Thankfully Trevor was never robbed or confronted in person by the stalker but that person is still out there. If you're not careful your next tweet or Facebook post could make you a crime victim. To turn the geotags off you'll want to configure the programs that actually use this information. If you're confused as to how, contact your cell phone service provider.

If there's a crime issue in your neighborhood you want us to help you with, just send an e-mail to ECassimy@nbc12.com.

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