Avoiding Auto Theft and Insurance Problems

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Where's my car? 
We hope this never happens to you. Walking back to a dark parking lot after a late-night dinner, you can't find your car. Maybe you parked in the next row over? No. Your car is gone, stolen by crafty thieves in the night. How do you keep this from happening to you? Let's find out. 
A car is stolen in America every 30 seconds. 
Last year, more than 800,000 drivers had their cars stolen and about half of those thefts might not have happened if the vehicle owner had known these tips to avoid auto theft. Vehicle theft is big business, costing car owners over seven billion dollars every year and about 75 percent of stolen cars are regular passenger cars like the ones you and I own.

Auto Nappers

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III) today's high-tech cars have forced thieves to become more tech savvy. They use smart keys to steal cars, switch vehicle identification numbers to sell the vehicles or have them parted out. 

More cars are stolen in the summer months when warmer weather makes it easy for thieves to spot easy motorized prey. The auto nappers often sell stolen cars to "chop shops" that take the cars apart and sell off the valuable parts such as wheels, engines, transmissions, catalytic converters, stereos, GPS units, and body panels. They are also on the lookout for your smartphones, laptops, iPads and more. Such valuables are easy money. 

Anti-theft Systems

Most vehicles sold today come with an anti-theft system of some sort that makes your car more difficult to steal and easier to find if it is stolen. These car alarms draw attention by blasting the horns, making siren sounds, and flashing the lights when someone tries to get in your car. Systems such as "Lojack" incorporate GPS and cellular technology to trace and locate a stolen vehicle.

But even a sticker on the window that announces you have a car alarm can help deter would-be culprits. Steering wheel locks are another good visual deterrent. Many car alarm systems include immobilizing devices that prevent bypassing the ignition system through "hot wiring" by using smart keys that have computer chips in them. These cut the electricity or fuel to the engine.
How to avoid auto theft 
To keep thieves from stealing your vehicle, you have to think like a car thief. Make your car a hard target. Make it difficult to steal. Time is the enemy of thieves and the longer it will take them to nab your auto, the less likely they will choose it. With that in mind, always park in a well-lit area. The more people and activity that is near your car, the better. Thieves are drawn to dark, remote areas where they can work on stealing your car without being seen or bothered. Clever car-grabbers can pop the lock and ignition and drive off in your car in a minute or less.

When you park, make sure all your car windows are up and lock the doors before you leave the vehicle. Make sure you take your keys with you and never leave an extra set of keys hidden somewhere on the car. Thieves know all your hiding places. Never leave anything of value inside the car where thieves might see it.  

To review, take preventative measures to keep your vehicle safe. Here are 10 tips to help you protect your car from theft:
1. Lock your doors 
Make it a habit to always lock your car before leaving it. Keep your doors locked even when you are driving. Keep your car keys with you.

2. Never leave your keys 
If your key is in the car, a thief can break a window and drive away with your car, quick and easy.

3. Never leave your car running 
Likewise, never leave your vehicle running, even for a minute. Even if you are popping into a store for a sec and want to leave the air conditioner on. 

4. Never leave a spare key 
Some people like to leave a spare key in the glove compartment or in a small, magnetized box under the wheel well. Don't do it! Thieves know all the hiding places. 

5. Keep windows up 
Always put your windows all the way up when you leave a vehicle. A robber can reach into your car to gain access.
6. Alarm systems 
If your car doesn't have an anti-theft system, have one installed. You want the alarm to draw attention to your car, the louder and more obnoxious, the better.
7. Don't leave valuables 
A tasty purse or cellphone seen inside your car is a sure way to attract a thief. If you must leave something of value in the car, hide it out of sight.

8. Park in a lighted area 
When looking for a parking place, never park your car in the dark. Haven't you watched any scary movies? Parking lots with video cameras and security guards are best.

9. Stay alert 
Be aware of your surroundings when parking. Some robbers wait for you to get out of your car and just take your keys.
10. Don't fight back 
Our friends at GEICO Insurance remind us that if you are confronted by a carjacker, don't resist. Give the creep your keys. Remember that your car can be replaced, you can't. 

If Your Car Is Stolen

The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) reminds us that if your car is stolen, contact the police immediately and file a stolen vehicle report. You will need to provide them with the following information: 

  • The year, make, model and color of the car 
  • The license plate number 
  • The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) 
  • The exact location from which the car was stolen 
  • Let them know if you have Lojack so they can trace the car 
  • Make sure they have all your contact information 
  • Get a copy of the police report and case number to give to your insurance company. 
After speaking to the police, call your car insurance agent and report your car stolen. Having your car stolen is an awful experience, but that is one of the reasons you have car insurance, right?