back to article Stolen satnav guides thieves to owner's home

Police have warned drivers not to leave their journey home programmed into their satnav systems following the theft of a device from a car at Alton Towers theme park which directed ne'er-do-wells to the owner's Shropshire home where they promptly made off with a £20k Saab convertible. According to the Telegraph, West Mercia …


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  1. Simon Pearce

    . . . or don't leave your house keys in the glove box!


  2. John Deaux

    Or better still...

    ...enter the address of your local police station as "Home"

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In-built Satnav's ?

    No that I'd doubt police logic, but surely the point of an inbuilt sat nav is it isn't removed from the car easily.

    Or do I need to remove half my dashboard everytime I leave the car?

  4. Adrian Jones

    Didn't "The Real Hustle" do this a while ago?

    ISTR that they set up a fake car park, where they parked the cars for customers. So as well as the car, they also had the keys and a Sat Nav with directions to home.

    As an added bonus they found the house keys in the car too.

  5. David Harper

    Smarter than the average bear

    If I had a satnav system, I'd program it so that "Home" was my local police station.

  6. Scott

    Making SatNav slightly less useful ...

    ... when the first thing you do on a SatNav is to erm, program your home address so as to program routes from there to wherever.

    Wouldn't introducing a simple PIN system for SatNav units be a far better way of offering basic protection? Of course, the determined thief will figure out a way around that, but then, as I understand, many car jackings are simply opportunistic thefts - giving the thief not a great deal of time to actually break the PIN protection.

    Of course, actually taking the SatNav unit with you when leaving the vehicle would also be a fairly good idea...

    (yes I know some are built in - why can't we have removable fronts ala in-car cd players...)

  7. Andy Kay

    large pockets

    "If your car is broken into, particularly if you have an in-built satnav as part of the dashboard..."

    "...Better still, police suggested, remove the satnav from the car altogether."

    I'd love to carry my dashboard round with me everytime I leave the car - thanks for the suggestion bobbies! Now go and arrest someone pilfering someone else's Wi-Fi...

  8. Nano nano

    Deja vu

    Yes, this was mentioned on The Real Hustle last year.

    Better to find a road junction near 'Home' and program that in instead, on the assumption that the final 500 yards should be straightforward ...

  9. Matt

    Another police panic?

    Perhaps I'm being over sensitive but this sounds like a bit of an over-reaction.

    If someone steals my Sat Nav they may be able to find out where I live, just as if they stole my bag they might find my address.

    Even if they did get my address they can't know for certain there's no-one home. I may be out with the kids on my own, my 23 year old son may be at home etc. etc.

    Added to this, why am I a better target than another house closer to where the thieves live? Sat Navs aren't any more pricey than a DVD player, so it's not an indication that I'm super rich.

    Now, not setting an out of office reply that tells them I'm on holiday, that makes more sense!

  10. Tom


    Why not just have a password that the satnav asks for on startup?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cop shop

    "Home" on my twat-nav unit will take any ne'er-do-wells to my local police station. It's a small gesture, but it amuses me.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sat Nav Home

    Or store the address of the local police station as Home? Though second thoughts, would they notice if someone drove into their car park and started nicking things?


  13. Natalie Gritpants

    Better still

    Program in your local police station under the name "Home".

  14. GettinSadda

    Urban Myth

    Oh come oh Lester, this is one of the better known modern urban myths.

    Think about it - what is wrong with a SatNav leading the crooks to your home? They can't be sure that the house is empty (grandma may not have gone with you, or worse for them your husband who is a police officer and just got home from Judo training). What do they expect to get their that they can't get elsewhere? They don't need the keys to the car they have just stolen because according to your story it was a dash-mounted job and so they must have driven the car there! Also, there is a good chance that the only keys you have for the car are in your pocket, not at home. And thieves have a much better way of getting keys and car together - they break in at night when the car is at home.

    Not only this, but if this were a serious problem catching the thieves would be easy - as soon as your SatNav or SatNav-enabled car is stolen just give your address to the police and they can pick up the miscreants there.

    Oh, and how useful is a postcode for finding your home? There are about 12 houses that share my post code, but many places have even more!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The thieves can be stupid too....

    I've known this happen the other way around....someone I knew had their TomTom stolen from their car. A few weeks later it was recovered, which was a miracle in itself as you'll see.

    The police then phoned to say they had the unit and were surprised to find on it a log of where the thieves had been since they had used it themselves - they had caught one of them who had the unit in their own car. It led them to all sorts of places including their lock-up containing boxes of other stolen sat-navs and other swag. LOL.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    better yet

    learn to read a map! granted Sat Nav can have traffic alerts etc and it is very convenient, but not once have I read the map and ended up on the train tracks, and who would want to steal a 2005 Road atlas from the back of my manky old 406!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    and in other news

    Police have asked car owners to remove any personal items such as post from their cars as smart thieves are using these to find out where he owner lives blah blah blah

  18. Mickey Porkpies

    Keep 'em busy

    just programme a random location on the M25 as home and that will keep them busy for days stuck in traffic behind caravans or trucks hogging the middle lane or numpty who never check their oil, water. petrol etc. If you are luck you can get the insurance lolly and be driving about in your new 4 x 4 does my knob look big in this before they find the services.

  19. Andrew Oakley

    Home as your "local" police station... in Shropshire?

    The suggestion to specify your local police station is an interesting one. The story states that the victims in question were from Shropshire, a very rural area. Their "local" police station was probably about a hundred miles away- in Worcestershire. If West Mercia Police really want to prevent crime, they could try actually having more than one police officer per thirty mile radius, rather than blaming the victims.

  20. Dave

    Darwin in action....

    Why would anyone need a Sat-Nav to find Alton Towers ? The signposts for it start just outside Paris.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    To all the respondents above who say "but there might still be someone at home"... errr, so don't you think that the thieves might just conceivably ring the bell to see, with a made up story ready if someone does indeed answer ("fancy your drive being repaved")?

    And to the person who suggested just telling the police and have them lie in wait... Oh really! Do you honestly believe that for every car with SatNav that's stolen, the police will have nothing better to do than wait (presumably in an umarked car) outside the owner's house for hours just on the off-chance that the thieves might show up?? Get real!

    Personally this sounds like quite ingenious thieves to me... A car stolen mid-morning from Alton Towers is *likely* to be a whole family, out for the whole day, and not likely to even find out that their car is missing for a number of hours let alone then think about how their home address might be "known".

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Too much

    to ask of course that the police do something about the high level of crime!

  23. Neil

    These thieves are getting smart!

    Next thing we know, they'll be waiting outside somebody's house for them to leave home and then breaking in!

  24. Dave

    To catch a Thief?

    I wonder what happens if you leave a satnav with the local cop shop under the "home" label? Someone would be daft enough to try it.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I set 'home' on my satnav to the carpark outside the local police station.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Setting up "Home" to your local police station

    While it is a nice idea, it is hardly going to achieve much. As unintelligent as criminals are, they aren't going to turn up to a police station, not notice, then try and break in and get caught. They are just going to drive away again...

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Making SatNav slightly less useful ...

    Errr I was under the impression most Sat-navs don't need a "start" point since they tend to know where they are - it's a bonus of the technology I think.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @better yet

    Maps are all well and good, but the only way to update them is to buy a new one. As a regular driver on the continent I depend on my Tom Tom to get me there and to cope with me not following the directions and getting lost. How would a map help me in that situation? A map can't tell you where you are; you need to know that.

    And I'm not a complete numpty - I used to be in the forces so I am familiar with map reading and navigating (probably to a greater extent than most un-trained civilians).

  29. Joel Mansford

    Not so far fetched

    This happened at Alton Towers, a place where you go with your family and often end up, up-side-down. Consider many families have multiple cars.

    Thus, it's not inconceivable for someone to lose their keys at Alton Towers, and drive the person's car to their home (providing you can find the car in the car park, or maybe the keys were 'lifted' and you were followed from the car park). You would then spot a Saab, Merc, BMW etc. key on the ring and consider going to the person's home worthwhile.

    When you arrive there you may find multiple cars matching the keys you now have (does anyone else carry their wife's car key on the same ring?).

    For me the satnav isn't a big deal, especially if you have anything else in the car with your address on.

  30. Law

    they could steal mine!

    Just through laziness more than anything, but I never reprogrammed home when I moved from Portsmouth up to Manchester..... anybody stealing my car & satnav are welcome to drive 250 miles south, but I doubt they would bother with it really! ;)

  31. Rick Berry

    It does not matter...

    All the thief has to do is pull out the vehicle registration and/or the insurance papers that the owner is required by law to keep in the vehicle. Either document has enough information to lead the thief home.

    And let's not forget about all those folks who keep garage door openers in their cars...

  32. Ross


    This story is bunk. You are no more at risk from having your SatNav stolen with your postcode in it than you are having your address book, diary or contact book stolen with your *exact address* stolen. In fact, in some cases, you are less at risk with the postcode, especially if you share it - i.e. live in a block of flats.

    This is the sort of uninformed twaddle that scares people about technology. Other examples include people worrying that Facebook feeds might allow their friends to figure out what they are doing (shock horror) that geotagging Flickr photos may indicate the area in which you live (not as well as the electoral register) or the idea that spammers/phishers somehow have a particular interest in you individually (they don't, you're just one of a huge number of potential targets).

    Everyone carries on as if when we lived in villages and married our cousins, we had perfectly anonymous lives - when the reverse was true. Nobody complained about 'predictive marketing' when the butcher stopped the village pagan and asked if they wanted a nice lamb to sacrifice on the solstice.

  33. Svein Skogen

    "No home route"? Why don't recommend "no cheapski GPSes"?

    Not sure if this applies to other decent quality GPS'es, but atleast my nüvi requires a pin code, unless I start it up within 50 meters of its "home" position. And the fact that it actually starts up without pin at home: If it's already home, for the thieves to find the way wouldn't be too hard, would it?

    I think the better option here would be to not leave such devices around in the car when you leave it. The moral here is "empty your car before the thief does it".


  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sat Navs aren't any more pricey than a DVD player

    "Sat Navs aren't any more pricey than a DVD player"

    Show me a Tesco's where you can buy a SatNav for £17.97 and I'll buy you a beer.

  35. Zulon

    This is all too simple....

    How about programming "Home" as "Home" and installing an RFID kill switch in the car. When the car approaches said "home", RFID kills engine (and/or the low life behind the wheel). ....

  36. dan

    I know, why not

    make 'home' your local police station...

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps there are some advantages of incomplete Sat Nav maps

    Mine doesn't have the all the houses in the road, so have had to set it up for the road only

  38. Andy Worth

    My Sat Nav

    Well if they can put up with my sat nav calling them a tw*t every time it gives a direction then they can have my second car, it's worth less than the sat nav anyway.

  39. Aram

    Re: I know, why not

    But Dan, others have already sugges-, waidaminnit, is that "humor"?

  40. John Stag

    "Sophisticated thieves..."

    When I was a lad thieves would just ring doorbells to find out if somebody was at home.

    All this "drive all the way to Alton towers and steal a satnav so you can find a house where there *might not* be anybody at home seems like overkill.

  41. Luke Wells

    How about ....

    Why not program in "home" as your local police station.

    Yes I know at least 20 other people have already said the exact same thing, but I didn't want to feel left out! :)

    I'm sure I won't be the last to say it in this thread either

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Save it as a favourite

    My sat nav is built-in but, like almost all sat nav software, has a favourites list. Just save your own address in there as your name (eg/ Joe and Jane Bloggs) and use that to get home. Then set the unit's "home" function to the local police station or just a really remote place so you at least lead the robbers on a bit of a wild goose chase.

  43. Analogue

    Can you lot not read?

    Fair play on a load of people thinking of making "home" refer to your local police station... I accept that many of you sport neither originality nor a wel-developed sense of humour.

    But did none of you notice that the same comment had already been posted several times over?

  44. Andrew Moore

    Why not...

    Why not make Home your local railway crossing or river???

  45. Steve Cook

    Lacking Commoon Sense

    The thief first broke into a car and stole the satnav. Then thought it wise to journey to the victims home and then steal a car parked on the drive just to dump it somewhere - perhaps as an inconvienence?

    That shouts oppurtunistic stupidity! Even if the assumption was that the house was empty and then the car being an easy steal... the house - full of valuables considering the victim has 2 cars, one worth £20k - is left untouched.

    How did the police know it was the same guy? Did he leave the satnav in the drivers seat when he dumped the Saab or was it an assumption? What if the guy was just really unlucky?

    A simple PIN on the device stops this story coming to light, ever - even the urban myth side of it - and Mr. Walsh getting his panties in a twist.

  46. Trevor Watt

    I will leave my home address programmed in...

    As I am sure that when I am out my rottweiler will enjoy a visitor or two to keep him company.

  47. Matthew

    RE: It does not matter...

    Err... while carrying your Insurance and MOT certificate used to be a good idea as if you were pulled over this would save the copper from giving you a producer and increase the chance of you getting off whatever they have pulled you over for (not needed so much now Insurance and MOT status is on the PNC), but keeping the V5(C) / Registration Document in the car is plain stupid! If someone steals the car and it comes with the registration certificate then it is really easy for the their to sell the car on!

  48. Brian Milner

    Re: It does not matter

    Rick Berry posted: "All the thief has to do is pull out the vehicle registration and/or the insurance papers that the owner is required by law to keep in the vehicle."

    Good news Rick! This page says that's not so:

    "Production of documents. You MUST be able to produce your driving licence and counterpart, a valid insurance certificate and (if appropriate) a valid MOT certificate, when requested by a police officer. If you cannot do this you may be asked to take them to a police station within seven days. Law RTA 1988 sects 164 & 165"


    "Never leave vehicle documents in the car"

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Worse in canada

    Here you are required to keep the insurance (with your home address) and title (equivalent to V5) in the car.

    You might as well keep a for sale signs and a bag marked swag in the boot.

  50. Trevor Watt


    Your best to keep your insurance certificate with you, as if the police get a false positive for no insurance on an ANPR check then you risk your car being towed at your cost. You could be anywhere when it happens and you don't get your money back as the law REQUIRES you to carry your insurance documents.

  51. Marcus Vowell

    How about this...

    Set "home" to actually be your local fire station. Wait, what?

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Better yet don't leave anything with the address on it

    I had the bad luck of having someone break into my brothers car, find the address on a letter, catch a bus to our house, break into the house, steal two sets of keys, take my car back to my brothers car, steal it as well, prang my car into a pole, and light my brothers car on fire.

    so the moral of the story is don't leave your address in the car at all.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here is a new idea

    Why don't you set "home" to your least favorite neighbour (which could be the police I suppose)

  54. Martin Kemp

    Re: It does not matter

    That was the biggest difference I noticed when moving over to Massachusetts from Blighty - that you have to keep the registration doc in the car which gives over all sorts of details (like owner's address and insurance details). You do still have a separate V5-like document that indicates ownership.

    If you don't have the registration doc you don't get 7 days to produce it at the 'local police station' you've programmed in as 'home' (sorry - just had to get that bit in).

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    because there is no way to appeal...

    trevor wrote: "Your best to keep your insurance certificate with you, as if the police get a false positive for no insurance on an ANPR check then you risk your car being towed at your cost. You could be anywhere when it happens and you don't get your money back as the law REQUIRES you to carry your insurance documents."

    No it doesnt... and yes you do (documents and money, in that order)

    As for the guy that suggested the WIFI kill switch... wouldnt that mean that the car stopped when YOU drive up to the house... or are you planning some thing magical...

    How about RFID chips in the arm that dissable the immobiliser... then you have to be in the car.. or minus one arm to start it.

    Seriously though, yeah its inconvenient, but at the end of the day, the odds of your car being nicked so your house can be robbed are very slim, add to that the fact that you will be insured and there really isnt that much of a problem.

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    me again

    Plus.. if your insured and the PNC gives a false positive you can just ask them to phone the insurance company to check... then if you (by the worst luck ever) get another false positive from them... its their fault and you can sue them for any money you loose getting your car back.

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dont set home as a police station go for the Guy Richie ending.

    Rather than set "Home" as the local police station (because thieves may be dumb at times but they are not that dumb) why not set it to some random address in some local area where all the pikies and scumbags live or better still the address of some local villan or scumbag family.

    That way when some smackhead steals it and looks up the home address he either gets a shock when he thinks he has just broken into a car belonging to some scumbag he knows and guesses he is going to get his legs broken or at the very least he is going to get a cool reception off some no neck troglodite when he knocks on the door with a pre prepared story about block paved driveways.

    You never know the scumbag might get lucky and find no one home and break into the house and end up as a part of the foundations on a local building development when the house owner finally catches up with him.

    Make Darwinism work for you!

  58. Phil Endecott

    How about....

    Why not program in "home" as your local police station?

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not...

    ..make "Home" a location which you know will involve a journey through toll roads or bridges?

    Then they would have to pay for the pleasure for stealing you car!!!

    And - yes - this can be done if your sat nav supports itineries!

  60. Jay Giusti

    So, apparently...

    It's not absolutely transparent from the quoted but assuredly authoritative recommendation, but it seems vehicle thieves/would-be house-breakers can only locate potential targets by having an actual address to go by, assisted by turn-by-turn instruction? Drive-by opportunities and stake-outs, checking for unkempt lawns and stacked mail or package deliveries, unanswered phone rings, interior lights on during the daytime, lack of posted central alarm station warning signs and stickers: all now passé as clues? Well, that fits the reported drop in academic achievement of late. Yet, there's more to it.

    How does an investigation-based break-in work, exactly, when there are more than one gang operating in a district?

    Do they first call a central dispatcher to check for conflicting plans, so two gangs don't strike within a few houses of each other?

    Does the dispatcher have at the ready instructions for each brand and model of GPS, so they can readily transmit the proper steps to check for the owner's home address? (Or perhaps I missed The Register already published a story about technology courses available at regional burglary academies.)

    And what well-trained burglar could fail to exercise due extreme caution, recalling the legendary tale of a GPS that failed to warn the driver that the roadway had been relocated but the map not updated, so she nevertheless continued into the pond or meadow, etc.? (Wouldn't that be major professional embarrassment when the police arrive to assist?)

    And what of recursion: presumptive burglar removes GPS device from vehicle already stolen by a different burglar?

  61. Gareth

    Hay Guys!

    I've had a great idea - why not program in the address of your local police station as "Home" on your sat-nav?

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No need for GPS

    Just locate the names of your potential marks in a street (I suspect a bit of surreptitious peeking in the letter box for inward mail might be involved), look them up in the phone book and then get all your mates to ring up over the next few weeks asking for random names (sorry, mate, wrong number *click*) until a few houses all fail to answer at the same time and then race out and do them all over.

    Mate of mine fell victim to this, as did three other houses in his street within a one-hour period and they "stole to order" - took his VCR but left his TV as they'd nicked a better one down the road. No one got any of their stuff back - as you'd expect when the stuff is pre-ordered and the fence/receiver is already jacked up.

    No GPS, they already had the addresses, found the names and cased the places then bided their time.

    Of course, we must now issue an alert to warn people to be waiting at the gate for the postie to deliver the mail into the security of their own hands, have him/her always address you by an alias, never list your phone number and stay at home always so you can answer your phone.

    People! Do not leave your mail in your letter box for even two minutes lest some toe-rag identify you. Do not leave your house. Get caller ID and notify the police of the origin of every wrong number you receive...

    Or just always carry your car keys on you and remember to lock, alarm and insure your house, contents and cars.

    In my pocket I have the spare keys for my wife's motorcycle and the car as well as my own motorbike keys and the house and security bolt keys. My wife has the other keys on her at all times as well.

    Of course, they could always break a window and get into the house but they'd also have to break into and hotwire the car and the insurance company says "Oh, you didn't leave your keys lying around on the bench and the house had a monitored alarm" so they'll only have a half-hearted attempt at trying to back out of paying up for the stolen/damaged contents/car...

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Darwinism @ work...

    Sat-Nav = lower IQ

    Maps = higher IQ

    Darwin was right.

    PS: Has anyone mentioned prgramming "home" as your local Po......

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't put your local rozzer shop into the sat nav

    In this age you will end up banged up yourself.

    The cops would give you a hard time for wasting their donut time.

    The theives would have you in court for some infringement of one of their european rights.

    You put in the local gangsters home address into your sat nav and let the scallies nick his Range Rover... Would not be long until they are hospitalised and justice is served.

  65. Matthew

    I have an idea

    Hey what about programing home as your local police station??!! i cant believe no one has come up with that idea yet

  66. Trevor Watt

    @anonomous re ANPR

    Your wrong I'm afraid, what you describe is best practice, but not all insurance company offices are open for phone calls 24/7 and if your not on the MIB database then the MIB Police Helpline won't help your case either. The helpline was set up to stop people presenting a revoked certificate and saying it is valid, indeed around 41% of calls to the Helpline result in a vehicle being seized for this reason. It was NOT set up to enable anyone to access your details to help you out.

    Also I can find no examples in the records available to me of anyone ever getting their money back after a tow. Indeed here are the ACPO guidelines:


    The statutory recovery fee for all vehicles is currently £105. This must be paid before the vehicle is released. Storage is charged at £12 per day after the first 24 hours. The 24 hours is taken from the time the vehicle is seized.

    The only instances when payment will not be required from the owner/driver by the recovery operator are where the owner can prove that:-

    (i) they were not driving the vehicle at the time of the incident


    (ii) they did not know that the vehicle was being driven at the time


    (iii) they had not consented to it being driven


    (iv) could not, by taking reasonable steps, have prevented it from being driven then the procedure as outlined above is then followed.

    So unless the car is nicked you don't get anything back.

    An officer only needs reasonable grounds to believe the section Section 165 seizure is correct and then in law it is justified. There are NO provisions in Section 165 for repayment of fees for any reason. And sue your insurance company? For what? Where in your contract with them do they become compelled to put your details on the MIB Database, that is done for their benefit, not yours.

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