Friday, February 6, 2009

Price of Safety is Eternal Vigilance

Teresa Barrett, Captain of Park Station, recently informed me on a couple quite clever scams, about which I now write.

Careful with Your GPS
Recently, a woman had her car broken into, while at a football game. Her car was parked adjacent to the stadium. The garage door remote and a GPS unit, which had been prominently mounted on the dashboard, were both stolen.

When the victims got home, she found that her house had been ransacked. Just about everything of value had been taken. It is believed that the perpetrators used the GPS to guide them to the house, and the remote to gain entry. It is reasonable to conclude that the perpetrators surmised that the homeowners were going to be occupied at the football game, and that they thus had a specific window of opportunity to commit the burglary.

It remains to be seen whether or not this will be a new trend which we must be concerned about. However, if you have a navigation system in your vehicle that identifies your home location, you may become a victim of this type of crime. One obvious way to avoid this is that if you’re going to put your home address in your navigation system, don’t identify it as “Home.” You might consider entering your local police station’s address into your system as “Home.”

Careful with Your Contact List
A woman recently had her handbag, including her mobile phone, stolen. Twenty minutes later, when she called her husband, to tell him what had happened, she was shocked to hear him state "I received your text asking about our PIN and I replied a little while ago." By the time they reached the bank, significant sums of money had already been withdrawn. The perpetrator had actually used the stolen cell phone to text 'Hubby,' as identified in the contact list, and thereby gleaning the PIN.

Moral of the story: Disclosing the precise relationship between you and the people in your contact list comes with risk, as illustrated by this story. Obviously, there may be times when this information may be helpful to a stranger – as in the case of the emergency or accident. Therefore, it would be prudent to give some thought to how you maintain this information. Generally speaking, when sensitive information is being asked through a text message, you might want to confirm by calling back. You can also try putting the SFPD Fraud Unit’s telephone number (415) 553-1521 in as “Hubby.”

Remember, the price of safety is eternal vigilance.