Car GPS Devices and Burglary
Just like our story about Toyota Tundra catalytic converter theft a couple of weeks ago, tales of thieves using a vehicle’s GPS system (or a portable GPS unit) to find and burglarize vehicle owner’s homes are making the rounds. Here’s a story from 2009, for example (link):
In September 2009, Dwayne Wilkinson and Hugh Brown of White Plains, New York were arrested in connection with more than 300 burglaries. Investigators said the pair would break into a car, use a GPS device to locate the car owner’s address and access the home with the help of a garage door opener
That’s not a typo – Wilkinson and Brown knocked off over 300 homes this simple system. Other thieves have been arrested using a slight variation:
- Posing as a valet, they take a car for a ride and pick up a buddy who is waiting nearby
- Using the GPS in the car they’ve “borrowed,” the thieves drive to the homeowner’s garage
- Using the extra set of keys that most people have on their keyring, thieves steal the other car that’s sitting in the garage
- The fake valet returns the car they borrowed without the vehicle owner being aware their second car is now missing
In the time it takes the vehicle owner to realize the car that’ supposed to be sitting at home in the garage has been stolen, it’s often too late.
What You Can Do
If you own a car with a built-in GPS, or if you have a portable GPS unit in your car, there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk:
1. Don’t leave your GPS in plain sight. It’s hard to hide a factory GPS system, but it’s easy enough to stow your portable GPS in the glove box or under the seat when you park somewhere.
2. Program ‘Home’ in your GPS to be something other than home. The smartest idea we’ve heard is to program ‘Home’ to be a landmark in your neighborhood, like a gas station or a park a couple of blocks away from your house. The funniest idea we’ve heard is to program ‘Home’ to be the address of your local police station (SUPRISE!). Of course, not putting a ‘Home’ address in your GPS in the first place works too.
3. Put your garage door opener in your pocket. This whole scheme relies upon the fact that thieves have easy access to your home using your car and your garage door opener. If a thief doesn’t have the opener, their job just got a lot harder. The neighbors are probably going to notice is someone who doesn’t look like you just got out of your car and is fumbling at the front door with your keys…
4. Make them think you’ve got nothing. If you’re a thief and you’re looking for a car to steal, which one are you going to take – the one that has nothing of value visible, or the one that’s filled with valuable electronics (or chargers for valuable electronics) in plain sight?
Unplug your chargers, put them in the trunk along with anything else in your car of value, and then lock your doors. There’s a good chance someone will walk right on by.
5. Don’t worry about it. The odds of this sort of thing happening are pretty low – less than your chances of getting audited, in fact – so it’s not as if you must live in fear.
Still, this is another great reason to have insurance.
Filed Under: Auto News