Top 10 Ways to Steal a Car (and how to defend against them)
By Caroline Pardilla, Production Editor
Lists come out every year detailing the most stolen cars and, with that, what steps one can take to deter car thieves. Yet, a car is stolen in the United States every 24 seconds according to the Insurance Information Institute. Auto theft continues to thrive despite those lists and regardless of new anti-theft technology that emerges with every new model year.
What else can you do besides not drive the most stolen car in America and equip your car with anti-theft protection? We're going to give you the unique opportunity to look inside the mind of the car thief and learn how he steals cars. With the help of police auto theft experts and auto theft professionals, we've compiled this list of some of the ways thieves steal cars followed by suggestions of how to stop them from doing it to you.
We have no intention of providing new information to the wrong people and simply want to educate the good guys. We haven't disclosed anything that car thieves don't already know and we have left out specific details to avoid making this a "how-to." Knowing the insider tricks of auto thieves will motivate you to take the necessary precautions to defend your vehicle.
Even though auto theft is a crime of opportunity, if a crook really wants your car, he'll do whatever it takes to get it regardless of steering wheel locks or car alarms. But with the above knowledge, you can slow him down, make your car inconvenient to him and, hopefully, discourage him from attempting to steal your vehicle. Layering your car with anti-theft protection, especially if it's at the top of the most stolen vehicles list, is a good start. But, as with anything that is of value to you, the most important protection you can give your car is to take a proactive approach to security when you leave it unattended.
- Bump against the car to check for a car alarm. Since it seems like everything from a loud Harley to a rumbling garbage truck can set off a car alarm, people have been conditioned to tune them out. Instead of a motion-sensitive car alarm, use one that has a pager that will notify you as soon as your alarm is activated.
- Break the window or jimmy the lock to gain entry into a locked car. Don't tempt car thieves. Keep valuables out of plain sight. Take them with you or store them in the trunk. Also, if you have a stereo with a removable face plate, take it with you instead of tucking it away in the glovebox.
- Cut the steering wheel itself if there's a steering wheel lock. Instead of locking just your steering wheel, "lock" your car's ability to go by using a starter disable switch and putting it in a place where only you can get to it.
- Look for exposed wiring that can be cut or for the central unit of the car alarm to deactivate it. Instead of going to a big retail chain store, have your car alarm installed by a professional car alarm installer, preferably a reasonably shady one. Unlike retail chain employees, these experts know what it takes to make your car elusive to crooks.
- Look for car alarm decals to figure out which method to use to eliminate the alarm. Never display stickers that advertise what sort of car alarm you have, or audio system for that matter. Consider using a hood lock cable so the thief can't get to your battery or car alarm mechanism.
- Jump into an unattended running car while the owner is at the ATM, dropping off videos, etc. Never leave your keys in the ignition even for a quick errand. Car theft is a crime of opportunity, so don't make it easy for them to grab yours.
- Look for the car's title, registration or anything with a home address on it. Keep your registration and insurance information with you and never leave personal information in your car.
- Stake out sporting events, movie theaters and shopping center parking lots for the car of your choice since they offer the largest variety of cars in one area. Whenever possible, park in lots and garages that have security and/or parking lot attendants. If not, don't park in the farthest corner of the lot but rather near the entrance of these facilities to insure the most foot traffic (and the most potential witnesses). Also, opt for paying the extra couple of dollars for the monitored parking lot instead of using the free parking on the less-trafficked side streets.
- Find the second set of keys the owner "hid" in the car. Don't leave spare keys in your car or in a magnetic box attached to the underside of your car. Thieves know where all the "hiding places" are.
- Copy specific vehicle information and take it to the manufacturer to get a replacement key made. Instead of VIN etching the major parts of your vehicle, which doesn't turn most thieves off, drop your business card into the doors through the window slots to identify your car as yours.