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Satnav thieves using information stored to burgle owner's homes', warn police

UK Daily Mail | January 22, 2007 

Thieves are stealing car's satellite navigation systems so that they can use them to target people's homes in burglaries, police warned.

Criminals are breaking into vehicles parked in public places to take sat navs before following the directions to 'home' which many users store on the gadget.

They then are able to make their second 'hit' on the victim - and burgle the property knowing the occupant is likely to be out.

Police urged motorists to wipe their personal details from the gadgets or risk having their homes ransacked.

Natalie Treagust, a spokesman for Hampshire Police - which is leading the appeal - said: "We are warning motorists to be on their guard.

'They need to be wary of entering details of their home address or telephone number into their satellite navigation kit. If the item is stolen, saved details such as this could direct thieves to the owner's home address.

"We urge these details should not be saved - but if they must be saved, they should be named in a way which does not provide a link to a home address.

"It may be worthwhile to use the name of a person rather than the word 'home'."

Since they went on mass sale in high street stores last year, sat navs - which cost up can cost up to £1,000 - have become the latest 'must have accessory'.

And many of them automatically ask the owner to enter a base address - so the gadget can guide them home at the touch of a button.

But since their rise in popularity, the portable kits have become a number one target for thieves - as they are easy to steal and are not security coded like in-car hi-fi systems. Last year, statistics from the British Crime Survey revealed there were more than a million thefts from vehicles - with up to a quarter of these thought to be sat navs.

Thieves are also targeting mobile phones - which people often store their home addresses on - in a similar way.

And handbags and briefcases are also a top target - as this way thieves can steal house keys and a sat nav - along with the home address.

Automobile Association spokesman Luke Bosdet said: "Anything which contains personal details puts people at risk of crime.

"But electronic devices such as sat navs are a particularly lucrative target because they can be easily sold on for cash while also instantly coughing up the owner's address.

"The danger is that one theft may end up coming back to haunt you. People must be vigilant and not leave any indication that they have a sat nav.

"Many have cradles which leave distinctive marks on the window - and thieves often think there may be a sat nav hidden in the glove box or under the seat."

A spokesman for company Garmin, an electronic communications company which designs sat navs, added: "If your sat-nav unit gets stolen the last thing you want is for it to guide the thief to your home.

"We recommend choosing a sat-nav device with built in anti-theft features so it can't be used by anyone who doesn't know the 4-digit pin."

 

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