Stay Savvy Against Vehicle Thieves

Picture this: you get home after a long journey, and your wheelie bin is at the end of your drive. Your natural reaction might be to get out of your car to move the bin out of the way, so you can pull into your driveway.

Believe it or not, thieves are using this as a tactic to steal cars. When drivers jump out of their car to move the bin, leaving the engine running, criminals are then driving off with the vehicle. As the keys have been left in the car, many insurance policies may not cover motorists for this type of theft. If your wheelie bin seems strangely out of place, think about parking around the corner, ensuring you lock your car. If you notice anyone suspicious, stay safe – get back in your vehicle and call the police.

Shocking Statistic

Almost 75k cars were stolen last year – a 33% increase from 2019, according to the DVLA.

I was quite shocked to read this statistic.  I can remember my early insurance days in the 1990s when hot hatches such as the Golf GTi and Escort XR3i became almost impossible to insure for a sensible price due to their high theft rate.   Then, they were stolen mainly for ‘fun’ by joyriders.  Today’s activity is of a more sinister, organised nature with many vehicles being stolen to order.

Whether you have a personal vehicle or a motor fleet, here are a couple of tips to avoid becoming a victim of vehicle crime.

Keyless Car Theft

Over a third of vehicles stolen last year involved cars with keyless entry.  Police intelligence shows organised crime gangs are using technology to get signals from keyfobs inside residential and commercial properties. They then transfer this to a portable, relay device which allows them to unlock the vehicle and drive away.  Criminals can get the signal and steal a car or van in less than two minutes.

On average keyfobs have an unlocking range of 5 to 20 metres, so make sure they’re kept as far away as possible from any entry points in your home or business.  Don’t leave your car/van keys on view or placed near windows or doors where thieves can see them but equally don’t hide them. Keeping the keyfob in a “Faraday” pouch, which prevents the signal from being used on a relay device, is a good idea.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

It can be easy to leave items in our cars or work vans that we know we’re going to need on our next journey. However, an opportune thief may notice something on the back seat and break in and steal it. 

If you need to leave anything in a vehicle, always make sure it is hidden away safely in the boot. However, it is best advised to empty, wherever possible, any car, van or lorry at the end of the day. That way, it isn’t a temptation for opportunists.   Many Goods In Transit policies exclude theft of tools and contents left in vehicles overnight unless they are parked in a locked garage/compound.  Check the position with your insurer or broker.

Choose Your Route Carefully

Think about the area you’re driving through or to? Have you been there before? Try to stick to main routes where possible, especially if you’re in an unknown area. Car thieves may stake out lesser-known areas, hoping for someone who is lost. They may pretend to be broken down, so you stop to help them. Similar to the wheelie bin trick, they’re hoping drivers will leave the ignition running, so they can make a quick getaway.

If you’re parking up, always choose a well-lit car park that has CCTV – as this could put criminals off from targeting your vehicle.