Recently my lapse in judgment lead to my beloved Garmin nuvi 250 being stolen out of my car. It was a smash and grab on a busy street in broad daylight – an hour after I had parked my car.

Here’s what I knew (and should have done) to prevent being a target and learned afterwards.

Before It’s Stolen

  • Never, Ever, Leave Your GPS Out – This is an obvious one but practice it religiously. Never leave your GPS or other electronic devices (laptops, satellite radios, photo equipment) out. All it take is one goodie to entice a thief and then they’re all gone.
  • Wipe Off Suction Cup Marks – Paula bow recommends bringing some wet toilettes to conceal this GPS giveaway.
  • GPS devices use suction cups that leave big rings on the windshield. Even if you hide your system, you run the risk of becoming a target unless you wipe off the telltale suction marks. Pack a few wet towelettes, and when the ring becomes noticeable, wipe down your windshield.

  • Load Startup PIN Codes – My Garmin device had the “Garmin Lock” pre-installed which forced me to enter a 4 digit PIN code each time I turned on the device. Although crackable, it’s not quite as easy as unlocking a Nokia cell phone.
  • This will help keep your private information such as where you’ve been, addresses, etc. safer than a completely open device.
  • Register The Device – A stupid thief may return the device to the manufacturer to unlock it (the recommended advice online). Once you’ve registered a GPS stolen with the manufacturer, along with a valid police report, there is a slim chance you’ll get your device back.
  • Add The GPS To Your Car Insurance Policy – Car insurance doesn’t usually cover anything that doesn’t come with the car. Find out what is covered by calling your insurance and consider adding your GPS to your policy.
  • Anything under your deductible won’t be covered and any additions will likely raise your premiums. Only do this if you have a very low deductible or very expensive GPS.
  • Most thefts from auto are already covered under home owners and travel insurance.
  • Find Out What Your Car Alarm Does – Many dealer installed car alarms only consist of engine cut offs. Verify that your car engine has audio sensors, which will set of the alarm in case of someone smashing the glass.
  • Keep in mind if you have after market tint, the glass won’t shatter upon impact. This reduces the amount of noise, so make sure the audio sensors are set on the sensitive side.

After It’s Stolen

  • Call The Police – They won’t do anything, but make sure you get a police report. You’ll need this evidence to make a claim with your insurance and send to the GPS manufacturer.
  • Report The Device Stolen With The Manufacturer – As I said above, you’ll need to fax them a copy of the police report, in case they end up with the device. Enabling a PIN on the GPS could entice a stupid crook to send it back to be unlocked.
  • Search eBay and Craigslist For Your Serial Number – Anytime you need to kill time at work spend the 3 seconds to do a search on these sites (and Google). Chances are slim, but it has worked.
  • You can also set up Google Alerts to get notifications once a day or week via email. Try “ebay [serial number], craigslist [serial number], [serial number].
  • Be Thankful, You’re Ok and Only Lost A Few Hundred Bucks – Most smash and grabs have very limited damage. You’ll lose the window and have some minor interior scratches, but since the criminal works fast, nothing else is hurt. A GPS is only a small electronic device and it might be your best luck to have never encountered the thief.
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My window has since been fixed and I’m not holding out on ever recovering my GPS. I did take away one lesson though, and that was the first one. Never leave your GPS out in the open – something I had adhered to all of the time except some nights at my house and at the office. I won’t make that mistake again and will be shopping around for a new GPS; any suggestions?

[photo by: Salim Virji]