There’s evidence that burglars are buying huge lists of e-mail addresses, and sending mass-mailings in the hopes of receiving auto-replies from people saying they’re out of the office (and even giving the dates they?ll be away). Once they find out you’re on vacation, they burglarize your home or apartment.

“You wouldn’t go on holiday with a note pinned to your door saying who you were, how long you were away for and when you were coming back, so why would you put this in an e-mail?” says David Roberts of the U.K. technology company Tif.

Mark Rasche, of cyber-security firm Solutionary, says, “Some people leave a very detailed out of office message with notes like ‘I will be in the Philippines for two weeks.'”

FBI public affairs officer David Wray says the FBI “has some indication that there might be some of this activity.”

But the “out-of-office” scam is no different from scams where thieves use travel agencies, security companies or newspaper deliveries to find out who?s out of town. Rasche says,”It’s just a high-tech way of doing things that can be done in a low-tech way.”

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