Friday, June 03, 2005

Are online Web tours an invitation to burglars?

David Lazaurus (SFGate) writes on how Web tours are a boon for burglars.

Virtual tours are commonplace at most real estate Web sites, allowing prospective buyers to closely inspect a property from the privacy of their PCs.

Try it yourself. Go to, the leading real estate Web site, and plug in a ZIP code. (I experimented with 94121 for San Francisco's tony Sea Cliff neighborhood and 94109 for Nob Hill.) Click where it asks whether it should display properties with virtual tours first. Then click "show properties."

In houses selling for millions of dollars, I saw a wide variety of art objects and attractive furnishings. I saw the places in people's bedrooms where jewelry or other valuables likely would be kept. And I saw front entrances that clearly didn't have alarm panels. Side windows that could be opened easily by breaking a single pane. Kitchen doors that didn't look very formidable.

As far as virtual tours go, be aware that they're as convenient for bad guys as they are for buyers.

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