Burglars prefer PINs over passwords

21st May 2015

Churchill Home Insurance reveals two million leave bank details in plain sight

  • Convicted burglars reveal computer passwords are not a deterrent but simple security steps such as Apple's 'Find my iPhone' and forensic property marking are
  • Hide and sock: six million people store valuable documents in underwear and sock drawers

New research from Churchill Home Insurance1 reveals that a staggering two million UK adults keep written versions of their PINs for banks, credit cards and building societies in plain sight around their house.

Householders should take heed as interviews with convicted burglars2 highlighted that they look out for bank PIN numbers in a property. In a series of in-depth interviews conducted on behalf of Churchill, burglars said things such as "I do look for bankcards and PINs for bank cards... you can take them straight to the cashpoint" and admitted that if they found PINS they would "go shopping with them".

The interviews also highlighted that criminals would steal documents such as passports and mortgage papers to sell; "We would look for paperwork and ID to sell on. You would look for paperwork for mortgage [sic] and passports and sell it on to those in the know." This is worrying as more than two million people keep passports in visible locations around their home.

While almost a quarter (23 per cent) of people who create a copy of a PIN hide it in a secure location, such as a safe, more than one in seven (13 per cent) will leave it somewhere unsecure in their house. Risking an empty bank account should their bag get stolen, one in ten (10 per cent) of people will even keep their PIN in a wallet or purse.

The most common 'hiding place' for valuable documents in the UK is in underwear and sock drawers, with more than six million people hiding their mortgage documents or bank details here. This is followed by food containers (2.8 million), such as butter containers and freezer food boxes, and in books (2.4 million).

However, interviews with criminals highlighted that even the fridge-freezer is not out of the question when it comes to ransacking a property. Burglars understand the most common places people used to hide valuables in their property, even going as far as looking in "old fish finger boxes in the fridge... that is the first place you would look for something they don't want you to find".

Top five 'hiding places' for valuable documents

Hiding Place Number of UK adults
1 Underwear or sock drawers 6 million
2 Food container (such as cereal or in fridge-freezer) 2.8 million
3 Books 2.4 million
4 Loft 2.1 million
5 Taped to the bottom of drawers 1.8 million

Source: Churchill Home Insurance, 2015

Martin Scott, head of Churchill Home Insurance, said: "In an increasingly digital world it can be difficult to keep track of all of the PINs and passwords required to access our personal information. By creating physical copies of these details and leaving them in an accessible place, people are offering criminals instant access to highly sensitive information.

"It's not just about TVs and laptops, burglars are now very astute when it comes to selling documents. To keep personal details safe, people should store the most valuable ones such as passports and mortgage documents in safes or at the bank."

PINs or passwords?

The criminals interviewed highlighted that PINs and documents are more attractive to them than computer passwords. They commented that passwords do little to help secure expensive electronic items. "If you have a laptop you do not need to worry because you can just press two keys and wipe the hard drive or just replace the hard drive depending on how valuable it was" said one burglar. Another burglar highlighted that he could get laptops unlocked for just £10, reducing the effectiveness of passwords and turning computers into an easy target for burglars to make a quick buck.

Churchill advises that people take other simple security measures to deter would-be burglars. The interviews with criminals revealed that taking steps such as registering your Apple device with 'Find my device' and investing in measures such as forensic property marking can be enough to discourage them.

Scott, concluded: "Passwords are not always a deterrent for burglars, so people should look to additional security measures to protect their devices and ensure that they are insured to a level where their expensive electronic items are covered too."

Notes to editors:

  • 1 Opinium Research carried out an online survey of 2,004 UK adults aged 18+ from 24th to 27th of March 2015. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria based on a UK adult population of 50,502,000 adults
  • 2 Findings based on qualitative interviews with fifteen convicted burglars by Perpetuity Research led by Professor Martin Gill of between September - October 2014

For further information

Amrit Nijjer
Citigate Dewe Rogerson
Tel: 0207 282 2803
Email: Amrit.nijjer@gmail.com

Claire Foster
Churchill PR Manager
Tel: 0165 183 1672
Mob: 07900 217 264
Email: claire.foster@directlinegroup.co.uk


Founded in 1989, Churchill is now one of the UK’s leading providers of general insurance, offering car, home, travel and pet insurance cover over the phone or on-line.

Churchill general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Churchill and U K Insurance Limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

Customers can find out more about Churchill products or get a quote by calling 0300 200300 or visiting www.churchill.com