GPS can lead a criminal to your home

April 9, 2009 4:43:00 AM PDT
GPS devices help an estimated 15 million U.S. cars navigate through the streets, but the convenient technology also may serve as a way in for criminals looking to rob your home. A 'GMA' Test

Nicole Perdue and her husband, Jim Perdue, do not tend to worry often about their safety. The parents of three boys ages 3, 5 and 7, are more concerned about the daily goings on in the children's lives.

"When I've got three little kids and I'm worried about who I'm gonna pick up from where and not forgetting someone, and if I'm taking their friends home -- is there a lunchbox? -- the last thing I'm thinking, really thinking about is my personal safety or my things being stolen," Nicole Perdue said.

The couple, married 10 years, feels safe in their quiet Houston neighborhood.

"We really don't think about crime. All the kids play in the front yard. Everybody knows everybody on the block," Jim Purdue said. "It doesn't seem like a place that you would even worry about crime."

The Purdues agreed to let "Good Morning America" conduct a safety experiment with security expert Bill Stanton. "GMA" wanted to test out if the family was as safe as it believed.

So, one day, when Nicole took her sons to a Little League game where Jim met her, Stanton showed just how easy it was to steal their car.

How Safe Are You?

In as little as two minutes, a thief can steal your car -- and Stanton drove off in the Purdue's car in just minutes.

Using Nicole Purdue's GPS system, Stanton was able to navigate his way to the Purdue home as the family watched the Little League game.

Ten minutes after Stanton left the parking lot of the baseball field, he was pulling into the Purdue's driveway. He used the remote control in Nicole's car to open a security gate and then the garage door without a problem.

Once inside the garage, he found an unlocked door into the house.

As the Perdues settled in at the game, Stanton made himself at home in their house by drinking their champagne.

Stanton also found money, diamond earrings and other valuable jewelry. The items in the Purdue's safe weren't so safe because it wasn't locked.

"Good thing I'm not a real thief," Stanton said. "Oh, my goodness! These are like $4,000 bags." Stanton said upon opening the safe.

All this happened in approximately 40 minutes.

When the Little League game was over, "GMA" let the Perdues know that Stanton had their car and a surprise waiting at home.

Showing Vulnerability

Stanton showed the Purdues just how vulnerable their home and items were.

He said the Purdues should lock their doors and set the alarm when they leave.

He then showed them just how much he was able to find when he entered their unlocked, unalarmed home. "This was the motherlode right here," he told the pair about finding the safe. "In many homes, people have safes, and I have left my safe open. I would imagine that's a nice tidy sum right there. Would that [money getting stolen] ruin your day?"

The Purdues were affected by the experiment.

"I need to listen to Jim a little bit more about being a little more cautious and locking the house," Nicole Purdue said.

She said she'd begin locking the doors and using the alarm.

Protecting Your Property

Stanton offered tips to keep your property safe. He said thieves are only interested in what's quick and easy. If you make it hard for them to break in, they'll just move on to the next house or car.

Don't Be Lazy

Don't give in to complacency. It just takes a moment to lock that door and set that alarm. Many burglaries aren't solved because victims don't do the simple things it takes to protect their homes, themselves and their families. You'll never know the catastrophe you prevent by doing these simple things.

Tips for Your Car

Let's start with your car. If your GPS has a key lock, use it. If it doesn't, don't list your home as "home." Instead, call your address "ice cream store" or "supermarket." That way, a thief can't find out where you live.

Tips for Your Home

If you carry a garage door opener, don't leave it out for a thief to see. Lock it in your glove box or throw it in your bag. At home, lock all doors. A State Farm survey found that less than half of their customers lock their front door at all times, and a third leave their back doors unlocked.

Just like the Perdues, 22 percent of people have left their inside garage doors unlocked, the survey found. It may be more convenient to leave the door in the garage open when you're coming back from the grocery store, but leaving a door unlocked is an invitation to a thief to come on in.

The convenience just isn't worth the possibility of walking in on a burglar.

In the same way, always arm your alarm when you leave the house. That's why you have it. Use it.

Nearly 30 percent of homeowners leave a hide-a-key outside their homes, even under a doormat. If you feel you have to do it, then don't leave it in your garage. Get one that's stone-shaped and put it in your garden in the middle of a number of rocks. No thief will take the time to turn over all the rocks in your garden.


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