Auto manufacturers are increasingly using smart technology to make cars safer to drive and easier to lock and unlock, and even to drive themselves. The trend is predicted to continue with the introduction and transition to autonomous vehicles.
However, among the unintended and unwelcome consequences of some of the new technology may be a greater vulnerability to theft. According to recent reports, New Jersey car owners are experiencing an increased number of vehicle thefts, and a similar trend has been reported in other states as well, including California and Florida.
While a direct link has not been established between these increases and technology, one widespread innovation, now found in both many luxury and economy vehicles alike, may increase the chances of your vehicle being stolen.
Keyless or hands-free car entry allows you to unlock your vehicle without having to even press a button or use a key; the vehicle detects the presence of a key fob and automatically opens its doors or prepares to be started, with the press of a button on the dashboard.
While keyless entry is beneficial to drivers, making it easier to gain access to your car, it’s also vulnerable to interference by thieves in several ways.
The first is through the growing use of electronic box devices. Thieves use these recreate your key fob signal and gain entry to the vehicle, allowing them to steal items inside. They can also connect the device to the car’s power source and download enough information to create a new digital key, allowing them to drive the car away. Similarly, other thieves use a wireless signal booster that tricks the car into thinking your key fob is closer than it is, which also allows them to access your vehicle.
Tips to Protect Your Vehicle from Theft
Solving the threats posed by keyless entry and starting will require manufacturers to develop superior security technologies for their vehicles. In the meantime, there are steps you can and should take that will help protect your vehicle from theft. Not only will these tips help keep your vehicle from being stolen; some will also save you money on auto insurance.
Purchase Security Devices
Anti-theft devices, like steering wheel locks or security systems, deter thieves from attempting to break into your car. You can also invest in an immobilizing device that shuts the vehicle off once the thief enters it. Approximately 40% of insurance companies offer safety discounts when you use and install security devices like these.
Park in the Garage
Parking your vehicle in the garage decreases the chances of it being stolen, as it’s not as easy to access quietly while there. Since the risk of theft is reduced (and your car is less exposed to the elements to boot), some insurance carriers also offer a premium discount for vehicles that are routinely garaged.
Park on a Well-Lit Street
Parking on a well-lit street is another theft deterrent because thieves prefer to work in the dark. The more lighting there is, the less likely thieves will be able to complete a break-in without the crime being noticed by bystanders or recorded on CCTV cameras.
Don’t Leave Your Keys or Key Fob in the Car
It seems like common sense, but some drivers are too relaxed about where they store keys or key fobs, and car thieves are taking notice. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, 57,096 cars were stolen in 2015 with the keys left in the car, an increase of 31% over the prior three years. Even if the key fob is indoors, it can still be close enough to transmit a signal to allow unlocking, according to other reports.
Buy a Tracking Device
A tracking device won’t prevent a car from being stolen, but it will help you find it if a theft occurs.
What to do if Your Vehicle is Stolen
While you may take steps to prevent theft from happening, you can still end up with a stolen car. If your car is stolen, it is imperative that you take the following steps immediately to increase the chances of finding your vehicle and avoid accusations of any crimes committed in it.
1. Contact Law Enforcement
The sooner you contact the police and file a report, the higher your chances are of recovering your vehicle. To file a report, you’ll need the vehicle identification number (VIN), make and model, physical description, license plate number, and where you last parked the vehicle.
2. Contact Your Insurance Company
Even if theft isn’t included in your auto insurance policy, you need to contact the insurance company. This way, if an accident is caused by your vehicle while stolen, you won’t be held responsible and the insurance carrier will know that you weren’t the driver involved.
3. Notify the DMV
By contacting the DMV, you are entering your vehicle’s information into their stolen car database. This way, the DMV can notify the police if it is found.
4. File a Report with Your Finance or Leasing Company
If you finance or lease your vehicle, you are still liable for what you owe. The financing or leasing company will want to contact the insurance carrier to work out the payment details of any claim. Notify them that the car was stolen and provide your insurance carrier’s information as soon as possible.
Maxime Rieman is Product Manager at ValuePenguin. Educating and assisting shoppers about financial products has been Rieman's focus, which led her to joining ValuePenguin, a consumer research and advice company based in New York. Previously, she was product marketing director at CoverWallet and launched the personal insurance team at NerdWallet.
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