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While helpful, GPS devices are often target of thieves
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Global positioning system devices (GPS) have become more affordable these past two years and are growing in popularity. They range in price from below $100, but the more sophisticated models can still cost as much as $1,000. Most GPS devices can help motorists find their way to destination locations, provide an estimated arrival time and many of them also include listings of stores, services, recreation locations, fuel stations, etc.

While GPS devices are enormously useful, they, like almost everything else, have their downsides as well. Specifically, they are an invitation for thieves to break into unattended vehicles. Once the thief gains access to the vehicle, they will ransack the interior and take anything else of value. The first rather obvious point is to keep portable GPS units hidden from sight when away from the car.

Another less obvious problem with a stolen GPS is that the crook can look through the stored addresses to find out where "home" is. Since the victim is known to be away from home, the thief can call their buddies and tell them that your home, complete with the address and sometimes the phone number, is presently unoccupied. All that the house burglars then need is about 15 minutes to get to the house, break in and then be gone before the victim realizes that both their car and home has been burglarized.

Some GPS devices come with a locking system which, when the device is turned off or loses power, requires the user to enter a number code before it will function again. This will eliminate the problem with thieves figuring out where the owner lives. If you must have your address in the GPS, label it as something other than "home."

The data contained in a GPS device poses other potential problems if it gets into the wrong hands. Along with your personal information, the device may contain information about where you have been shopping, the information on the businesses you associate with, the addresses and names of people and you know, etc. These pieces of information can all be put together like an identity puzzle by an industrious identity theft criminal. The criminal can use the data as a way to convince merchants and other people that they really are who they are posing to be. This is another reason to keep the unit from getting stolen in the first place, and why it is important to have a device that has the locking feature.

Cell phones are also in the same category as GPS devices, since they contain a wealth of information about you, your friends, family, acquaintances and business contacts. Do not leave them in sight for thieves, and when they are not in your immediate possession, utilize the locking/password security feature if the phone has it.

Also, keep in mind that if you have a remote control garage door opener in your car that it, along with the GPS or cell phone information, will make illegal entry into your home that much easier for the criminal.

One final point about GPS devices is that the technology is starting to be used for theft prevention. Different versions of these devices are now so small that they can now be imbedded into valuable electronic devices to aid with recovery efforts if stolen. This, too, has its downsides in terms of consumers feeling like "big brother" is always watching or can if it wants to. But, like I previously stated, most everything that at first glance appears as a panacea, most certainly has its problems attached as well. Consumers will do well to take all these factors into consideration before making purchases of any kind. In terms of the basic aspect of theft prevention, the best advice I can give is to use the "out of sight, out of mind" principle. Thieves are less like to steal things they cannot see.