An Essex man who had £12,500 worth of bikes stolen from his home has warned cyclists to be careful of what they post on social media. Adam Jones believes thieves may try and identify riders who record fast times on Strava segments and he expressed regret that he had not been more cautious regarding the information he shared online.
The Echo reports that on Wednesday night, five bikes were taken from Jones’ Barling Magna home: a Specialized Tarmac, valued at £1,500; a Bianchi Infinito CV, worth about £4,000; a Dolan Scala time trial bike, worth about £2,000; a Bianchi Oltre XR2 worth £2,500; and a BMC Road Machine, valued at about £2,700.
The thieves ignored his wife’s bike.
Jones said: “After the break-in, I was thinking it had to have been somebody who knows me – it felt so targeted and very personal. I was starting to look over my shoulder and thinking ‘who could it be?’
“But then after speaking to one of the cycling shops here, the chap said: ‘Are you quick and are you on Strava?’
“I had no idea that what criminals are doing is working out where people are cycling and on what routes, then using that to track where they live.
“They are making the correlation between people posting quick times and probably having the better equipment. I was so shocked when I realised what had happened, it must have been like a treasure chest to whoever broke in.”
Jones admits that he should have been more careful with what he was posting online and wants his story to serve as a warning to others.
“We are inadvertently using social media as a shop window for the thieves,” he said. “I put a gormless picture of me on Facebook with my new BMC bike – it's like an advert saying ‘come and steal me’.
“People are riding round on bikes worth six, eight, even ten thousand pounds, so it's big money for the criminals.
“I just hadn't made the connection of what was happening and of course since the bikes were stolen all my friends were saying, ‘did you have your privacy settings 'on', on Strava?’”
Essex Police said: “We are investigating following a burglary in Barling Magna where five bicycles worth a total of a five-figure sum were taken.
“It took place between 11.59pm on September 18 and 6am on September 19. Our enquiries are ongoing.”
Jones added: “My advice would be to check your privacy settings on Strava, beef up the security of your prized possessions and make sure that your insurance is fully up to date.”
In recent years, a number of police forces across the country have warned that thieves are targeting owners of high-end bikes through social media to identify where they are kept. Here’s what you can do to stay safe.
road.cc’s online security tips
We’re all for online communities here at road.cc – after all, we are one and the interaction between our own users is one of the things that makes the site what it is – but as the story above shows, there may be people watching who have intentions that go beyond taking exception with your opinion of helmets or Rapha and who’ll give you more than the odd flame to worry about. Here’s some pointers to keeping safe online, with an emphasis on bike security.
If you mainly post online under a pseudonym and never mention your real name in connection with that, you’re already a step ahead. If not, there are a few things you can do to make yourself more secure, both when it comes to your bike and generally.
• Since Facebook accounts tend to be under users’ real names, it’s not difficult for thieves to link that and other information to publicly available address information, so you may want to review your privacy settings to have control over who can see your profile (yes, we know Facebook keeps changing them, but try and keep on top).
• Be very careful about posting images online. We all like to post pictures of our new toys online, but a bit of common sense is needed. A photo of your brand new bike with your house clearly identifiable behind it could attract unwanted attention. You may wish to disable GPS information used by some photo sharing sites.
• The same goes for information you share on sites that track your rides and make the information public. Strava has a feature that enables you to hide the start and finish point of your ride, particularly useful if that happens to be your home. Use it.
• Don’t go into detail online about the specific type of security you have, whether in relation to your bike or your home generally; you’re giving the thieves a chance to prepare by making sure they have the right tools for the job. Likewise talking online about going away for a while, on holiday perhaps, can flag up an unoccupied house to the thieves.
• Even if you don’t post on social media under your real name, be wary about how much information you make public. The less you reveal, the less others know about who you are and where you live. Keep it vague – town or district, fine, the street you live on, think twice.
• It's not just Facebook and Twitter, either that you need to be careful about - even club websites can be trawled by the crooks for information. Site admins may want to consider a private area of the site where members can chat.
• This isn’t specifically online-related, but we know that cyclists are sometimes followed home, the thieves returning later once they know where you live. If, close to your house, there’s somewhere you can go on your bike that someone watching you in a car can’t, go there. Try and vary your route if you can. Or ride a little way past your house then loop back.