If Your Car Has This, Remove It Immediately, Police Warn
This item could be creating a potentially dangerous situation for you and your family.
No matter how much time you spend in it, your vehicle can often feel like an extension of your home. And whether it's as simple as a lucky charm hanging from your rearview mirror or as elaborate as a custom paint job, it's not unusual to add personal touches to make it feel like it's truly yours. But according to police, there's one item of car decor that could be putting you in danger. Read on to see what you should consider removing from your vehicle as soon as possible.
Police warn that you should remove certain bumper stickers or decals from your car.
According to a recent social media post from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, police are warning that certain bumper stickers, signs, or decals on your car could be making you a potential target of a crime, local affiliate FOX 11 reports. Authorities caution that the seemingly innocent decorations on your vehicle could be broadcasting personal information, including stickers that advertise your child's honor roll status at their school or vanity plates with your name that make it easy to search for you on the internet. Even showcasing the number of family members you have could tip off criminals that you're likely to be away from home during most days or too distracted to notice a potential burglary.
"You know, I don't recommend the bumper stickers for your car that advertise your life story," Detective Sergeant Michael Mangina from Irondale, Alabama, told local NBC affiliate WBRC. "You know the little family decals that [are] on the windows, yeah that's not a good idea either. Because once again, it's telling strangers what your home life is like."
Advertising your favorite products or vacation spots could also make your vehicle a target for theft.
If you're an avid outdoors enthusiast or look forward to summering in a favorite location, it can also be pretty common to carry a little piece of that special time around with you in the form of a bumper sticker or decal. But showcasing your love for a particular brand to the world could catch a potential burglar's eye if they think you might have valuables or expensive gear in your car. It can also tip them off that you'll be leaving your primary residence unoccupied for weeks on end for part of the year.
"Stickers that show frequent vacation spots could inform burglars that your home is left unattended during vacation seasons," Corporal Tina McGriff with the Montgomery Police Department in Alabama tells Readers Digest. "This creates an opportunity for property damage and loss."
Parking passes and other information can also give away sensitive information to strangers.
Even if your car is completely free of decorative stickers or decals, there are still some surprising ways people can pry personal information from your vehicle. Police also warn that parking passes on your rearview mirror or windshield could give away your car's exact location for much of the day where it might be unattended. "[They] reveal where you work, where your teenage driver goes to high school, and possibly where you both will park upon arrival," McGriff points out.
If possible, she recommends finding a way to keep your pass unattached to your vehicle so it can be stashed out of sight when it's not in use.
Generic bumper stickers or decorations can be a better option for keeping your personal information safe.
Experts still point out that while the potential for criminals to be tipped off by your car's bumper sticker exists, you shouldn't become overly paranoid about the world around you. "The stereotype of the 'stranger' stalker lurking in the shadows [and] looking for visual cues of vulnerability is more of an urban legend," Kent Bausman, PhD, a sociology professor at Maryville University, tells Readers Digest, adding that research has shown most stalking victims are preyed upon by people they already know.
Still, if you're interested in decorating your car, consider leaving any identifying information out of the mix. For example, swapping out the family decals for your favorite song lyrics, a professional sports team logo, or a symbol can still allow you to personalize your ride while leaving your sensitive personal information out of it.