How you can improve your vehicle security
Car crime falls but you should still remain vigilant!
Car crime has fallen significantly in recent years as vehicle security technology has improved, although car thieves are still coming up with ingenious ways of parting us from our motors.
Statistics show that you are much less likely to be the victim than ever before. But as around 100,000 vehicles are still stolen every year and three times that many cases of thefts from vehicles are reported, being vigilant and sensible with regards to your vehicle’s security is still advisable.
Though electronic security systems, provided as standard by motor manufacturers, have helped combat car crime, it still remains a subject that you should be familiar with and you should take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your possessions.
Car thieves get smart
The fact that security systems have improved so much as in-vehicle technology develops and advances means that some car thieves have developed smarter new ways of stealing vehicles.
The number of prestige, high-value vehicles being stolen is increasing in parts of the country where criminal gangs are using sophisticated electronic devices to override the car’s security via the On Board Diagnostic (OBD) port – a standard socket fitted to all cars for garages to plug in their fault-finding equipment.
If you’ve got a car with keyless ‘entry and go’ then it might be particularly at risk from this type of theft, as thieves don’t even need a mechanical key to overcome the steering lock.
‘Jamming’ is also a growing problem – thieves target specific vehicles using a transmitter to block the signal from your key when you point it at your car to lock it. You think it’s locked but it’s not.
What you can do
National motoring organisation, the AA, has some sound advice to help ensure you don’t become a victim of this particular issue.
- Always double check that your car is actually locked.
- Get a Thatcham-approved electronic immobiliser fitted – unlike your car’s standard security features, this won’t be vulnerable to attack through the OBD socket.
- Consider fitting a tracking system to help with recovery in the event that your car’s stolen.
- Keep an eye on local news and neighbourhood watch for information about specific vehicle models that might be being targeted by thieves in your area.
- Ask your insurer for advice – they might ask you to fit additional security measures before giving cover.
Update: There are reports of a new form of vehicle theft, coined ‘relay attack’ in which two criminals work together, one using a relay device to pick up the key fob signal from inside the house, the second standing next to the car.
Because this technique is effectively using the car key to gain access, it bypasses existing security systems such as immobilisers and keyless entry, and allows the thieves to get away very quickly.
Guard your keys!
One of the easiest ways to steal your car is to simply steal your key, so it’s best kept secure and out of sight at all times. Keys are often stolen via burglary – the thieves snatch the keys from your house and drive away with your car.
What you can do
- Don’t leave keys on display in the hall or where they could be easily reached from the front door.
- Don’t be tempted to take keys upstairs with you. Many thieves won’t think twice if you stand between them and the keys to the car they want.
- Always remove your keys! If a key/ignition device is left in or on an unattended vehicle, any loss of or damage to that vehicle arising from theft or attempted theft would be uninsured.
There are a number of simple but effective things you can do to ensure that you don’t begin an easy target for an opportunistic car thief.
- Don’t leave valuables in your vehicle or, worse still, on show. Take your mobile phones, laptop and any separate sat-nav units with you.
- Make sure your vehicle is locked up when you leave it – doors locked, windows closed and immobiliser engaged.
- Park in sensible places – if the environment is well lit, covered by CCTV, or busy with people, your vehicle is safer.
All the precautions above are common sense and are easy to implement.
Number plate theft
Aside from car theft, it is worth being aware of other types of vehicle crime. With regards to number plate cloning, if your number plates ever go missing, make sure you inform the police so that you have some protection from any subsequent problems.
If your plates are used to change the identity of another car you can expect to start receiving penalty charges for things like parking, speeding and congestion charging. You may even be suspected of committing crimes yourself, so it’s important to let them know as soon as possible.