Car GPS Devices and Burglary

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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:

  1. Posing as a valet, they take a car for a ride and pick up a buddy who is waiting nearby
  2. Using the GPS in the car they’ve “borrowed,” the┬áthieves┬ádrive to the homeowner’s garage
  3. Using the extra set of keys that most people have on their keyring, thieves steal the other car that’s sitting in the garage
  4. 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


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  1. Jeremy says:

    My GPS tries to kill me at least once a day.
    “Turn right in 20 yards”
    No, that is a lake.
    “Turn RIGHT”.
    Still water and will be water for another .3 miles.
    ” TURN RIGHT!!!” “Recalculating” “Go straight for .2 miles then turn left” That is a building ”
    “Recalculating” “Turn Left at Main St.”
    That’s a one way, I can only turn right. Stupid HAL GPS
    “I heard that”
    ??????? Oh crap!

    I would pay for someone to steal it and follow it to “Home” (more like Hell). They would jump in my truck and the GPS would giggle with glee. “New suckers”. IF they survived they would reform their criminal ways.

    I am still waiting for it to tell me “I’m sorry, I can’t do that Dave.” then suck all the air out my cabin. It is watching and waiting. I can feel it, just waiting for the right time to strike.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Jeremy the final frontier is here…..

  3. Jeremy says:

    Who knew, the final frontier involves technology trying to off me. MAybe the whole Accelerator issue was their GPS’ taking over the vehicle and trying to off the driver?

  4. Mickey says:

    Jeremy, Dave’s calling!

  5. Jeremy says:

    You know, we all have gifts. Mine is accidentally highjacking blog posts. That and paranoia. Which, for the record, isn’t paranoia if it is true.

  6. mk says:

    What’s a GPS?

    Why do you need one? Can’t read a map?

    I guess the only good thing about GPS’s for me anyways is marking coordinates to my favorite ice fishing spots on lakes ice fishing.

  7. Mickey says:

    That’s a good reason not to have a nav in the Tundra. I never thought of it but I don’t have a nav nor do I want one.

  8. Anonymous says:

    What is ice fishing? Do you have to “catch” your ice up north? Down here we use technology, something called an Ice Maker. Is wild ice better tasting? What do you use as a lure for ice? a popcicle stick? Are you using your GPS to mark were the big ice are? If you have a good day ice fishing, do you say “the ice was really Frost Biting today”? Have you ever tried offshore ice fishing? DO you require a special licence to Ice fish? Like Fresh water, Salt water, Solid water? ’cause we only have fresh and Salt down here. Just wondering.

  9. Jeremy says:

    DANGIT, I forgot to sign my name.

    Final question, have you ever though of creating sprawling Ice Farms where you can breed and harvest the more profitable breeds of ice and export it out to regions without native ice?

  10. danny says:

    Jeremy, thats really funny. We have catfich farms as well as shrimp farms down here in the south. Did you mean “sprawling” or “spawning”. Furthermore, if you go ice fishing in the summer, is it called “water” fishing? You should be a writer, i’d buy the book! that parody reminded me of Gary Larson’s “Far Side”.

  11. Jeremy says:

    Sprawling, large area. Thank You for the vote of confidence. I do write some stuff. I have a web site for some of my poetry, old articles, and my spoof corporate memos. Look up anything with the title “MEMO:” in it from March. Read from oldest to newest. there are 4. I have been pondering writing some MEMOs from a fictional Car maker to their dealers and customers. I think that would be pretty funny.

  12. Jason says:

    Jeremy – Funny! If you ever want to write a fake Toyota memo, you can be sure I’ll publish it.

    Mickey – I think that’s a concern, but the positives of owning a GPS might outweigh the negatives if you travel a lot, etc. Personally, I’d skip the factory GPS because it’s so darned expensive compared to a GPS unit or my phone w/ GPS built in.

  13. TXTee says:

    Thanks for all the laughs, guys…especially Jeremy’s roundabout GPS sending him into the lake. I travel to pretty much the same locations that GPS just isn’t too necessary. I’m barely in the vehicles long enough to hear three songs so imagine getting lost….Still it’s interesting to hear how the criminal mind can be so smart at times.

  14. Mickey says:

    That’s funny Jason. When I was in the Navy we did a term called “shoot the stars” for navigation. Also the sun. Maybe that’s why I don’t need a navigation unit. You know I travel alot too.

  15. mk says:

    Hey anonymous, you’re an idiot!

  16. Jeremy says:

    HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. I can sleep well tonight!

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