Friday, January 23, 2009

Cindy Swanson, CyberSnoop: The Case of the Stolen GPS's

The Case of the Stolen GPS Devices

Are thieves stealing GPS devices to find out where the owner lives, so they can burglarize their home?

That’s the message of an e-mail that’s currently making the rounds. It tells of a family who were at a football game when their GPS device was stolen from their car, along with a remote control garage door opener. When the victims arrived home, they found their home thoroughly ransacked. According to the e-mail, the thieves had used the GPS to guide them to the owner’s home, then used the garage door opener to get inside the house.

In the e-mail, this happened to the "friend of a friend," so there’s no way of verifying the story. However, tells us there have been at least a couple of confirmed instances in which stolen GPS devices were used to guide the thief to the owner’s home. In both cases, the houses weren’t burglarized, but cars were stolen from the homes.

And even if this e-mail can’t be proven, it does raise a good point: although not necessarily being used to find the owner’s home, there IS a very real problem with GPS devices being stolen.

In an April 2008 story, CBS news reported that the number of GPS’s reported stolen has quadrupled in the past couple of years. Police say the bad guys are breaking into cars just because they can see the GPS in full view. Their advice: don’t leave it exposed…not just the unit itself, but the cradle unit as well.

In fact, police say to take the whole unit out of your car…don’t just shove it under a seat. It’s just too tempting for thieves. Police say when you remove the unit, you should even wipe off the marks that the suction cups leave behind! Don’t give thieves any clue that you even have one.

By the way, you don’t have a prayer of recovering your stolen GPS if you don’t have a serial number for it. There’s a website you can go to that was specifically created to help you register your lost device and find it if it’s stolen: it’s A similar site is

According to the CBS story, some GPS manufacturers are now making the devices so that you have to have a 4-digit pin number to make them work. The hope is that if no one else can use it, it won’t get stolen.

Clearing up another internet rumor, this is Cindy Swanson, CyberSnoop…reminding you to check it out BEFORE you hit that “send” button!

NOTE: This feature is now airing as "Cindy Swanson, CyberSleuth" on the radio in Canada! I share my internet sleuthing to de-bunk or confirm e-mail rumors with Beth Warden on

1 comment:

Ann-Marie said...

I remember when I saw those radio tuners you could remove from your car so your car wouldn't get broken into! I was like, "Who would want to carry their tuner around with them?" Now, it's GPS units! Ah, well - technology improves and so do the thieves! :-)

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