Car crime and car security

Don't be a victim of car crime

more than 100,000 cars were stolen last year and only half of those have ever been recovered

more than 100,000 cars were stolen last year and only half of those have ever been recovered

The number of cars stolen every year has been falling steadily since the early 1990s peak when 700,000 cars were stolen in a single year.

You don't see car crime reported on the news as much these days either, but it's still a big problem – more than 100,000 cars were stolen last year and only half of those have ever been recovered.

There are some new types of vehicle crime that it pays to be aware of too.

Key theft

It's almost impossible to steal a modern car without first obtaining the keys – Thatcham, the Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre recently reported that 70% of cars that are taken are stolen using the key.

There are many different ways of obtaining car keys but Thatcham figures suggest that at least one in five cases involve domestic burglary – snatch the keys from the house and take the car from the drive.

Over 19,400 cars were stolen in this way – more than 1,600 per month – last year.

AA car insurance claims statistics show a similar picture with an average value of cars taken using stolen keys just over £10,000 – which underlines the increasing determination, patience and ingenuity of thieves targeting up-market cars, even though the total number of cars stolen is falling.

This crime is largely planned – specific vehicle types targetted by organised gangs – rather than opportunist in nature.

Your own personal safety is more important than property – don't leave keys on display in the hall where they can be seen, and easily reached from the front door, but on the other hand don't be tempted to take keys up to bed with you. Many thieves won't think twice if you stand – or lie – between them and the keys to the car they want.

Number plate theft

If your number plates are stolen contact the Police immediately. It may seem trivial at the time but if the 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.

Satellite navigation theft

If you use a portable sat nav, take it with you whenever you leave the car.

Remove the cradle and suction pads and clean any marks left on the windscreen or dashboard too as thieves are known to look for these telltale signs and break in anyway, expecting to find the sat nav tucked away in the glove compartment.

Catalytic converter theft

In 2008 the credit crunch and high market value of platinum combined to create a new type of vehicle crime – theft of catalytic converters to recover the parts and precious metals they contain. With money still tight and platinum prices rising again, catalytic converter theft is on the increase again.

Taller vehicles (4x4s) are particularly vulnerable as the converters are more accessible and, because they tend to have larger engines, they contain more of the precious metals too.

Car buying Scams

The so called 'virtual vehicle' scam involves fake shipping websites that promise to handle and look after your money.

Once you respond and express interest in buying the car being advertised which is currently located abroad, you are directed to a fake website for a shipping company that will handle the transfer of funds including shipping costs.

Watch out too for Vehicle matching scams which work by approaching consumers who are selling their cars and promising falsely to match them with 'definite buyers' – consumers lose nearly £3 million a year according to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT)

(updated 3 May 2012)