MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — Home security systems are meant to keep you safe, but one piece of technology could make them vulnerable to attacks from criminals.
It’s no secret that home break-ins and car thefts in Memphis are on the rise. According to the Memphis Police Department data hub, there have already been more than 3,000 reports of thieves stealing items from cars or stealing the car altogether this year.
Now, criminals are using new tactics, so they don’t get caught in the act, including blocking your WI-FI signal – rendering your security cameras and security systems useless.
A woman who does not want to be identified because she’s scared told us due to crime in her neighborhood, she started to pay even more attention to what her security cameras were catching.
She was surprised to see they weren’t working when crimes were being committed.
“Some of the younger people use their phone before they come past my surveillance cameras and then the image is not there on playback,” the woman said. “It usually happens when someone is committing an act they don’t want recorded and it happens pretty often.”
She went to the internet to see what could be causing the issue. That’s where she learned about Wi-Fi signal jammers. The devices are small and cheap.
The Federal Communications Commission says it is unlawful to advertise, sell, distribute, import, or otherwise market jamming devices to consumers in the United States. However, we found several online suppliers.
The FCC also says, “The use of a phone jammer, GPS blocker, or other signal jamming device designed to intentionally block, jam, or interfere with authorized radio communications is a violation of federal law.”
We wanted to learn more, so we went to Dillard Door and Entrance Control and spoke with President and CEO Chris Bird.
“Ring cameras are convenient. They are very convenient, but the only way they communicate is Wi-Fi. So, if Wi-Fi is defeated, those particular cameras are down,” Bird explained.
Bird knows home security can be a bit of a chess game with criminals. He says the best way to protect your home and property is to stay a few steps ahead of the bad guys.
“Our recommendation is always to have two means of communication. That means an old-school wired security system with a cellular backup,” he said.
Bird says a wired system will cost you more, but they are harder to disarm.
“If that cable is cut then you still have a cell backup, but a hardwired system is still the best,” he said.
We reached out to MPD and they said they had not received any reports of criminals using signal blockers. They also declined an interview.
Memphis City Councilman Chase Carlisle says if signal jammers are being used in Memphis, it should be taken seriously.
“If that is occurring, we need to verify and validate that that is the case and see what the city policy is and what the constitution allows,” Carlisle said.
The woman we spoke to says over the last two years she has reached out to the FCC, MPD, elected officials, and even the post office to file complaints. She says Councilman Carlisle’s secretary is the only person who has gotten back to her.
She is afraid to be inside her own home because she doesn’t feel like she is being taken seriously.
“Many of us are afraid. We don’t know or we are just so weary and worn down. When we contact you, return our calls. Reach out to us, please,” the woman said.
The FCC says before filing a complaint, please be sure to troubleshoot your equipment and connectivity issues in accordance with manufacturer and service provider recommendations.
The FCC also says if you are caught with one of these jamming devices you could face monetary penalties, seizure of the unlawful equipment, and criminal sanctions including imprisonment.