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As Cars Get Smarter, So Do Thieves

When it comes to car theft in the U.S., there’s good news and bad news. The good news is the FBI report saying there was a 3.3 percent decrease in auto thefts in 2011 over the year before -- the lowest it’s been since 1967. The bad news is that car thieves are finding new and innovative ways to get access to vehicles.

New anti-theft devices have made it more difficult to gain access to late model cars, so criminals have had to become creative. Even with older cars, the old smash and grab techniques are becoming less popular with the criminal element. After all, if the object is to resell a vehicle, a broken window will need to be repaired first. But if they can obtain a key for the vehicle, bingo, they’ve hit the jackpot.

In order to get a key made, whether it’s a computerized transponder or metal key, you have to have the key code. If you’ve ever lost a car key and been to a locksmith to reorder one, you know that you have to submit your car’s vehicle identification number (VIN). The locksmith or dealership puts that info into a computerized database and gets a key code for the replacement key. According to new laws, they’re required to ask you for proof of ownership before they provide you with a new one.

Car thieves have two ways of getting keys made. One is through a crime partner who works at a locksmith or dealership and illegally obtains the key code. All the thief has to do is give them the vehicle ID number. Another way is to create fake title and registration for the car with the vehicle ID number and have the unwitting locksmith make another key.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau recently issued a report stating that approximately 300 car thefts occurred in the first three months of this year using illegally obtained key codes to gain access to vehicles. They’re investigating the transactions to track down the thieves and any insiders who helped them.

How can you protect yourself from this type of car theft? First and foremost, always make sure you lock your vehicle so thieves can’t obtain your vehicle’s ID number. Alarms and tracking systems are also a plus. The bottom line is to be sure you have adequate insurance for theft so you’re covered in the event criminals get their hands on your vehicle.