Risk Insight: Vehicle Security

Personal Lines, Risk

No one wants to think that they might be the victim of a car theft or break-in, but these incidents happen more frequently than you think. Many desperate thieves are looking for items that they can sell from your vehicle, or they may want to steal and sell your entire vehicle. The risks are rising, and so is the technology being used by the thieves. It’s more important than ever to look at all your car security options and find ways to keep your vehicle safe. You can prevent vehicle theft!

Vehicle Security Tips

Most cars are taken by amateurs who can be stopped fairly easily. You can increase your protection against this type of crime by taking the following sensible precautions:

Secure your car keys

  • Avoid leaving keys close to your front door in an easily accessible house or apartment. It is not uncommon for thieves to break into houses with the sole intention of getting your keys and stealing the car in the driveway. Seasoned criminals may even hook your car key ring through your letterbox using a gadget in the shape of a fishing rod or even a coat hanger.
  • It is recommended to store car keys in a metal key cabinet when at home, especially if you have a vehicle with a keyless entry system. Also consider purchasing a car key pouch. Both the metal cabinet and car key pouch behave like a Faraday cage and prevent the key fob signal from being transmitted outside of it.
  • Reprogram any spare keys you got from previous car owners.

Always Lock Your Car

An unlocked car is an open invitation to a car thief. Lock up when you leave your car and always take the keys with you. Getting the original car key is the simplest way to steal almost any vehicle, as its use will result in triggering neither a factory nor an aftermarket alarm.

  • Manually check the car door handles every time you lock the car, even if you hear the “lock sound”. This helps prevent a possible jamming attack, which can be performed on any car with a wireless key fob and works by disrupting communication between the car key fob and the receiver inside the car.
  • Always remember to lock the trunk or tailgate of your vehicle.
  • Close all windows. Car thieves often have tools that can quickly unlock car doors through the smallest openings.
  • Be sure all vent or wind-wing windows are shut tight.
  • Lock all valuables in your trunk or take them with you. Leaving your cell phone, sunglasses, laptop, wallet, handbag or any other equipment on a passenger seat or car’s dashboard is not only a temptation for car thieves but may also attract small-time criminals passing by and seeing the valuable items out in the open.

Park carefully

  • Don’t leave a vehicle in unattended public parking lots for an extended period. A car is five times more likely to be stolen from an unattended lot than from the street or attended lot.
  • If possible, park your car in a lot where you don’t have to leave your keys.
  • Never attach a tag with your name and address to your key ring. If the keys are lost or stolen, the tag will lead the thief directly to your car and your home. If you must leave your keys with a parking attendant, leave only the ignition key.
  • At night, park in well-lit areas with lots of people around.
  • Turn wheels sharply toward the curb when parking. This makes it extra difficult for thieves to tow your car.

Don’t be free with your ID

  • Record your vehicle identification number (located on a small metal plate on the dashboard of newer cars) and store it in a safe place.
  • Keep the vehicle registration in your wallet or purse, not in your car.

Anti-Theft Devices for Vehicle Security

When buying a car, check the manufacturer’s list of anti-theft options, such as interior hood and trunk releases, locking steering columns and others.

Car alarm

Car alarm systems are generally considered a great car security measure as they are always active and go off very quickly if someone tries to gain entry to the vehicle. Some of the more advanced car alarms are even equipped with additional features, such as a mobile notification system.

Many modern vehicles come with a factory alarm system already installed, but many older cars do not have such security features and thus stay unprotected. As many classic car models are more susceptible to car theft as they age, it is crucial to consider equipping such vehicles with aftermarket alarm systems to keep them secure.

Steering wheel lock

The steering wheel lock fits directly on the steering wheel, preventing its movement and therefore the possibility of car theft. Steering wheel locks also come in bright colors and can be visible from outside of the vehicle, easily discouraging burglars and car thieves.

Many modern-day car thieves are experts in hi-tech car theft methods, such as RF jamming or smart key relay attacks that can be performed from a distance. As they are specifically focused on a car’s electronic system, they usually do not carry any heavy equipment that they could use to remove the steering wheel lock by force and drive the vehicle away.

Car immobilizer

A car immobilizer is an electronic anti-theft device that prevents the vehicle from being started without using the proper key fob. It works by disabling the systems that are crucial to starting the vehicle, which are usually the fuel system and ignition.

Immobilizers are installed as standard equipment in most vehicles manufactured after 1998. However, several companies provide after-market immobilizers that can be also installed in older vehicles. If you have a classic car, you should consider getting a good immobilizer.

An immobilizer will not prevent a thief from breaking into the vehicle, but it can successfully stop them from driving away with it. Even if a thief succeeds in starting an immobilized vehicle, it will take them a lot of time to get it moving, so they will probably think twice before stealing the car.

Wheel clamps

Wheel clamps function as a theft-deterrent car security system. Just like other physical obstacles, they are a great last line of defense if a thief has already gained access to your key fob. These clamps simply attach to a wheel in a Y-shaped lock, thus completely disabling the car from being moved. The installation usually takes only a few minutes. However, they cannot be removed without appropriate tools.

Wheel clamps usually come brightly colored, which greatly increases their visibility, thus giving the thieves a clear message that they should move on to the next car. They also prevent thieves from removing and stealing car wheels.

VIN etching

VIN etching involves engraving a unique vehicle ID (VIN) on several parts of the car such as windows, mirrors, or frames to make them instantly recognizable and therefore much harder to sell. If thieves notice that a vehicle is etched, they will probably move on to another car. In addition, this strategy will also prevent thieves from changing your car’s ID.

While there is no guarantee that etching will stop thieves from stealing a car, this technique can effectively help the police recover a vehicle in the event of a theft. As soon as the vehicle is stolen, the car owner should contact the police and provide the vehicle’s unique ID.

Get a GPS car tracker

Modern-day GPS car trackers are equipped with advanced mobile notification systems that provide real-time notifications in the event of any vibrations detected on a vehicle. GPS car trackers also provide another layer of safety for your teenage drivers, as it can monitor their driving habits and report back to you if it detects any form of reckless behavior behind the wheel.

Additional security devices include:

  • Interior hood lock release
  • Second ignition switch or “kill switch” to prevent electrical current from reaching the coil distributor
  • Fuel switch to prevent fuel from reaching the carburetor
  • Locking gas cap

Home security can help secure your car against theft

You’ll find that the home security measures that you have in place can help keep your car safe at night. For example, if you have good outdoor lighting and/or motion detection lighting that shines on your yard and vehicle, thieves are less likely to try to steal the car. They don’t want to be seen.

Additionally, have a home alarm system that includes your garage. You should also consider getting some high-quality security cameras that point at the vehicle. All this added home protection will help to ensure better safety for your car or truck.

If your car is stolen…

Car theft happens more often than we think. If your car is stolen, your first course of action should be to contact the police and report the theft. Then, call your insurance agent to discuss your coverage.

Key Takeaways:

  • There are simple risk management steps that you can make a part of your routine to prevent car theft and keep your valuables secure.
  • Anti-theft devices are available for added vehicle security.
  • Home security can provide additional protection for your vehicle.
  • If your car is stolen, contact law enforcement to report the theft, then speak with your insurance agent to discuss your coverage.

Reach out to your M3 personal lines account executive for more information about vehicle security and risk management, or to discuss a claim for a stolen vehicle.

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