Friday, April 10, 2009

Locking Your Wallet in Your Car Won't Stop Theft

This post originally ran on June 9, 2008. But in re-reading it I am reminded of a disturbing event that occurred in Ohio in December 2008. The moral of this story is that your car holds valuable information--don't be careless. Thieves can access nearly anything they want if they try hard enough. The post states that they'll often leave your cash but might take a credit card. However, it's becoming more likely that they won't touch your wallet at all. Instead they take your registration and/or insurance cards which are much more valuable.

Everybody knows that it's not a smart idea to leave your wallet in a gym locker room. It doesn't matter if you have a lock or not. But the old advice of leaving your stuff in your car isn't working either.

Last year a posh health club near my home experienced a rash of car break-ins. In this case the thieves were smashing car windows and grabbing purses. The purses were easy to spot as they were usually hidden under a jacket or a blanket. Vehicles with car seats seemed to be a sure sign to thieves that something valuable would be within reach.
photo by Kevin Saff

But smashed windows are loud, messy and tend to draw attention. So now stylish thieves come prepared. They prowl gym parking lots, trail heads and baseball/soccer field parking lots were victims are likely to leave their wallet behind. All it takes is a little bit of locksmith tools and know how and their discreetly in your car. Then they look in the usual places: under a jacket, glove box, under the seat, or in the compartment between seats. They leave your cash and only lift a card or two. Then they re-lock your car.

This sneaky strategy is successful in fooling you for a bit. Your car is locked, your cash is there. So it may not be until you get to your next destination that you notice your Amex is missing. By that time at least 1-2 hours have passed and they've racked up thousands of dollars in high-end electronics and gift cards (gift cards are tough to track).

Earlier this year Aurura police busted a ring of parking lot thieves that made news around the country. They caught 20 people who made over $400,000 worth of stolen credit card purchases. They were reselling their purchases in various places including eBay.

No one needs the extra heart palpitations of finding your credit card was stolen while you were exercising. There's really only one way to avoid being hit--If at all possible leave your cards and valuables at home or carry them with you. This is tough to do when you're at the gym. If anyone has other suggestions it would be kind of you to share.

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