Greater Manchester Police have warned cyclists that thieves are going online to scan forums and social media sites such as Facebook to work out where cyclists live and target expensive bikes they can then steal.
According to the Stockport Express, during the past three weeks, there have been 15 reported instances of bikes being stolen from garages and garden sheds in Brinnington, the Heatons and Reddish, with three of the victims belonging to the same mountain bike club.
Inspector Pete Smith commented: "Three members of the same club falling victim at the same time is too much of a coincidence and makes us wonder if thieves are getting details from websites or chat rooms.
"A combination of posting photos, putting on personal details and descriptions of routes cycled mean thieves can work out addresses where there is likely to be a bike of decent quality.
"We are advising people to be careful about what details they give out on club sites, forums and on Facebook."
Police believe that the thieves are getting around by using a van into which they load the stolen bikes, and have advised cyclists to have their bikes security marked and to note down details such as frame numbers.
Inspector Smith added: "The other thing we would recommend is to take bike racks off your car when not being used. Thieves will know that if there is one on a car roof then the owner will probably have a reasonable bike."
Anyone who has information regarding these thefts is asked to call police on 101 or the charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
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 - as the story above shows, 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.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.