Why are thieves looking for suction cup marks on your car's front window?

Those telltale suction cup marks on your windshield can make your car a target for thieves.
Those telltale suction cup marks on your windshield can make your car a target for thieves.
Diane Macdonald/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

If you want to prevent your car from being a target for thieves, one of the first things a car-theft expert will advise you to do is to clear out any trace of gadgets and accessories that might be resold easily. You might put GPS units and iPods in the trunk, hide the power cords and sweep the interior to make sure there's nothing left out on display. And yet one of the most important things is often the most easily overlooked: the suction-cup marks on your window or dashboard.

Most GPS and car break-in thieves are looking for something they can snatch quickly and sell, including cheaper items. In fact, most car break-ins are perpetrated by the homeless and those addicted to drugs: They don't care about high-value items or even getting the best price, they just want enough money to get by. It's worth smashing in a window just to check under the seats and try the locks on your console and glove box.

While you may have paid hundreds of dollars for your GPS, they're often resold for less than $100. In fact, GPS thefts have doubled in recent years, and one county in Maryland reported a whopping 328 percent jump in just one year, from 2006 (189 reports) to 2007 (620 reports) [source: Minton]. Consider also the price of repairs (for that smashed window or ripped-up locks), the time you have to spend with insurance and law enforcement, and a rental car while you wait for repairs, and it adds up.

If thieves are walking down your street or through your parking garage, they're looking for a car that's both easy to break into and worth the trouble. Those little suction cup marks make your car a target. They're easy to see in the daytime and even easier to see at night, when many potential thieves are checking every car on the street with a flashlight. What they tell a potential thief is that there's probably a GPS device located somewhere in the car, and you've likely stowed it in the glove box or console.

But that's not the only danger those little marks might get you into. Next, we'll see how losing your GPS to a thief can lead to even more trouble.

Why GPS Units Are Important to Protect

Say you're out shopping for the holidays, and a thief locates your car as a potential mark. He might crack a window with a spark plug or jimmy the door open. Once he's inside, he'll be looking for that GPS -- along with personal papers, gadgets and a host of other easy steals that could mean big problems for you down the road -- and once he has that, he knows your home address. He also knows you aren't home, because he found your car while you were out shopping.

To deter thieves from choosing your car as a mark in the first place, experts suggest keeping all valuable items in the trunk and using a different form of mount for your GPS if you don't want the hassle of wiping away the marks whenever you remove it. Just remember to hide whatever mount you do use along with the GPS. Car alarms are helpful, but they're so ubiquitous that they don't always do the trick: People often ignore them until it's too late.

If you have a purse or bag with you, you may want to consider taking the GPS along on your shopping trip. It's important to remember to erase signs of your gadgetry so that the break-in never occurs in the first place. But even just one little mistake could lead to an even bigger robbery, back on your home turf.

The best way to guard against this kind of violation, of course, is to keep your car from being a target in the first place. Flashy rims, entertainment systems, gadgets and loose CDs are all flashing signs for a robber. But by making sure the interior of your car offers no sign of easy-to-steal items, you can prevent the damage, stress and time lost to robbery.

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  • Davis, Paul. "Tips on Preventing Car Break-Ins." Business Know-How. (Jan. 18, 2011)http://www.businessknowhow.com/security/carbreakins.htm
  • Howe, John. "Prevent GPS Theft." The Best GPS. (Jan. 18, 2011)http://www.the-best-gps.com/gps-theft.html
  • Little Silver Police Department. "Vehicle GPS Theft Prevention." 2010. (Jan. 18, 2011)http://littlesilverpolice.org/id40.html
  • Minton, Greg. "GPS Device Theft Rising in Philadelphia." Rocky Mountain Tracking. Dec. 22, 2010. (Jan. 18, 2011)http://www.rmtracking.com/blog/2010/12/22/gps-device-theft-rising-in-philadelphia
  • Switched. "Five Most Stolen Gadgets." Jan. 31, 2008. (Jan 18, 2011)http://www.switched.com/2008/01/31/five-most-stolen-gadgets-5