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How thieves are using social media to steal your bike

Alia Parker's picture
Strava heat map of where cyclists were riding on Saturday morning in Melbourne. Cycle Traveller

With bicycle theft on the rise, an insurance company is alerting cyclist who use GPS tracking apps on social media that unwanted eyes may be watching them.

More than 5000 bicycles were reported stolen in Victoria alone in fiscal 2013-14, and many more were likely to have gone unreported. The number is up 7% from the previous year, continuing an increasing trend that started in 2010.

While no figures exist to show how many thefts are linked to social media, experts have no doubt that thieves are taking advantage of the freely available information.

“With social media making it easier than ever to track your whereabouts, it’s important to be cautious about privacy and the information you post online,” says Campbell Fuller, spokesperson for Understand Insurance.

He says GPS tracking on popular fitness and cycling apps, such as Strava and MapMyRide, could allow thieves to work out cyclists' home or work addresses and, combined with images shared on Facebook and Instagram, even the exact bike being ridden. 

“You could be revealing where your bike is kept, when you use it, how valuable it is and how well you protect it – invaluable information for thieves,” Fuller says.

“It is already a significant issue in the UK, and Understand Insurance believes it’s important for Australian cyclists to be more aware of how apps and social media can be misused by criminals.”

Fuller says cyclists should make sure they have activated the privacy options on their apps, with many such as Strava allowing riders to hide their start and finish points. He says riders should also aim to keep their bicycles indoors, or lock them with a D-lock to a stationary object.

Cyclists should also keep a record of their bicycle's serial number (often located somewhere on the underside, such as under the bottom bracket), and if possible, engrave a unique word or symbol that can be used to identify the bike if stolen.

He says riders with valuable bikes could also insure them against theft, accidental damage, damage to wheels and tyres and crash damage, as well as injury and third party cover.

Melinda Tarrant, Chief Operating Officer at Cycling Australia says those who think they're insured should check their policies carefully.

“Even if you have home contents insurance, many policies do not cover the bicycle when it is not stored at home and generally have low cover limits,” she says.

Image: Strava heat map of cyclist trips on a typical Saturday morning in Melbourne. Source: Strava


So to summarise there is no evidence of even one cyclist having their bicycle stolen due to information on social media in Australia.

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