Protect Yourself from Car Theft

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You walk out to your car. You know this is where you left it, but it's gone. Now what do you do? According to data by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) over 800,000 drivers have their cars stolen each year. In America, a car is stolen about every 39 seconds. The NHTSA says more than 74 percent of stolen vehicles are passenger cars, costing owners more than $7 billion each year. As much as half of those costly thefts could have been prevented by following the tips in this article. So, how can you protect yourself from car theft? Let's find out.
Common Sense Theft Deterrents
We all lead busy lives. We get where we need to go, park the car, and leave it without a thought. We're on to the next task in our busy schedules. But wait a second. Car theft can be deterred by simply taking a moment to be sure your vehicle is secure. Park in a well-lit area and remove any valuables from your car, especially if they can be seen from outside the vehicle. Roll up all windows, remove your keys, and lock your doors. Remember where you parked. Believe it or not, a lot of cars are stolen because they are not locked and the keys have been left inside.

Don't make it Easy for Car Thieves
A nefarious person will take whatever comes to hand. A laptop or smartphone sitting in the passenger seat is just begging to be lifted. Sometimes you have to think like a thief to stop a thief. Don't leave valuable items exposed. While it is common for car thieves to enter a car to steal expensive items and even remove the car stereo, you wouldn't believe what they can strip from an unattended vehicle.
Wheel covers are a favorite item to steal, but given time, they can nab the catalytic converter, strip the doors, pull out the engine and transmission, steal the GPS unit, even carry away the expensive safety airbags. It's all in a day's work for a car thief.

Anti-theft Devices
Today's cars generally come with some sort of anti-theft device that makes it harder to steal the vehicle, and that helps to trace and recover it when stolen. These devices sound the horn and flash the lights if motion is detected. If someone starts touching the car or breaks a window, the auto alarm goes off and makes a racket.
You can also purchase a steering wheel lock that can be seen when you look into the vehicle. These devices slow criminals down and time is a thief's biggest deterrent. You can also use visual devices to warn away thieves such as window decals that let people know the vehicle is armed with an alarm or by window etching the car's VIN number.
Many vehicles also include immobilization devices that keep thieves from bypassing the ignition system. The car won't start unless you have the correct smart key. Other stolen vehicle recovery systems such as LoJack can be installed that tracks your car once stolen via GPS tracking and cellular technology. Such systems allow police to track your vehicle to recover it. LoJack can lead the authorities to the thieves' hideouts or "chop shops" where cars are dismantled for their parts.

What to Do
If your vehicle is stolen, contact police right away to file a stolen vehicle report. You'll need to provide the case number to your auto insurance company. Report the vehicle's license plate number, tell police the year, make, model and trim level of the car, its color, and the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Also let them know any identifying characteristics of the car such as a big racing stripe down the hood or a telltale bumper sticker.
After you have called the police, call your insurance agent to file a claim within 24 hours of the theft. If by chance you find your car before the authorities do, let them know right away so they can call off the hunt.

Secure your Car
Car thieves have gotten more tech savvy in recent years, using smart keys to trick ignition systems, and switching VIN numbers to avoid getting caught. But the best way to avoid getting your car stolen in the first place, is still to be extra vigilant about keeping your vehicle secure. Let's go over the important steps to keeping your car safe.

Be Alert to Where You Park
When seeking out a parking place, be aware of where you are parking. Choose a well-lit area and if possible, park where there is a lot of activity where people are likely to keep an eye on your vehicle. Much of this is just good common sense. You don't want to leave your car in a dark, creepy lot. Lots of light is good. If someone suspicious is loitering around your car, move it.
Lock it Up
Remember that the quicker a thief can steal your car, the more attractive it is as a target. Lock your car doors when driving. Car bandits have been known to open car doors and pull people right out of their cars for a quick getaway. If you are confronted by a carjacker, do not resist. Your safety is more important than the safety of your vehicle. If it comes down to it, your car can be replaced, but you can't.
Once you park, close your windows, turn off the car, remove the car keys (as well as any spare keys), take all valuables from the vehicle, and lock the doors. As you walk away, give your car one more look to make sure all the windows are up and it is secure. Never leave a car running, unattended and unlocked.
All this applies when your car is parked in your garage as well. Make sure your garage is well-lit to deter thieves. Think about beefing up your driveway security with outdoor lights, a security camera, and make sure your garage door is closed and locked. Make it hard for a thief to take your car!