Two More Crafty Ways to Steal From You - GPS Units and Cell Phones.
I got another one of those emails recently, from my mother-in-law this time. As usual, I began reading with skepticism and was ready to take it all with another monstrous grain of salt. But as I continued reading, I realized the information actually seemed plausible. So I checked it out at Snopes and found truth behind the stories.
The Chinese Whisper effect has done its job on these stories, adding embellishments and hyperbole. But the base facts mentioned here are very real, and these methods could easily be used to clean you out.
Method One – GPS and a Garage Door Opener. (Snopes reference)
The basic premise is this. You’re parked at an event where the criminal knows you will be inside for some time, like a concert or sporting event. He or she will then scour the parking lot for cars with GPS devices and garage door openers, which is a vast number of the population and rising.
The thief takes the GPS and garage door opener, hops into their own car or truck, and then used the GPS device to guide the car “home” which is the first address anyone with a GPS will program into the device.
Once at your house, the thieves have access via the garage door opener, and they know they plenty of time to ransack your home and get away before you get to your car and drive home. Some people don’t even notice the devices are gone until they go to open the garage door.
What can you do to stay safe?
First, if you have a dashboard-mounted GPS device, put it out of plain sight once you arrive at your destination. Most come with a carry-case and are small enough to take with you, or you could hide it somewhere in the car.
Second, don’t program your home address into the “home” button. It’s easy enough to find your home address from a list of recent places, but the thieves won’t know that. All they will see are a long list of addresses and any one of them could be yours.
Third, put your garage door opener in an unexpected place. The first place thieves will look is on the visor. If they have to hunt around for both your GPS and your opener, they’ll no doubt give up very quickly and move onto the next car.
Method Two – The Cell Phone Scam (Snopes reference)
The story goes that a woman’s handbag was stolen, and her cell phone was one the of many personal items inside, along with credit cards, debit cards and so on. About 20 minutes after the handbag is stolen, she calls her husband from a payphone to tell him what has happened, and he tells her “I got your text asking for our PIN number, I just replied to it.”
When they checked their bank accounts, a chunk of money had been withdrawn using the stolen card. What had happened was the thief had texted her husband, labeled on the phone as “hubby” or “sweetheart” and asked for the information.
If you received a text from your significant other, you probably wouldn’t think twice about it, and reply with the 4-digit PIN. Maybe you’d call, but texting is so easy and convenient these days.
What can you do to stay safe?
First, try not to use pet names or other words that would disclose your relationship to that person. In particular, avoid common phrases like Home, Honey, Hubby, Wifey, Sweetheart, Dad, Mom, Boyfriend, Girlfriend, and so on. These are the first names that the phone thieves will go to.
Second, never reveal ANY personal info over a text message. If you get such a request, call and confirm if you can. I know it’s a lot easier to text in a busy meeting rather than leave the room to take a call, but do what you can. You can always ask a question only your significant other would know the answer to, just for verification, if you only have the option to text.
Third, if anyone ever asks to meet you somewhere via text message, make sure you call back to verify it’s the real person. Far worse than someone trying to take your money would be someone trying to harm you. Remember, phones carry photos and videos, thieves could see a pretty girl and attempt to set up a meeting via text message.
As always, keep your wits about you everyone. Stay safe.