Vehicle theft is on the rise

Posted on: 29 November 2017

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From the bad old days of cars being stolen for joyriding and so on, the incidence of vehicle theft has reduced year on year as a result of improving vehicle security, Thatcham research has found.

In recent years, it’s become easier to break into a property and steal the car keys, than to break in to and take the car without the keys. 

However, ABI data reported in the Insurance times suggests theft volumes are again on the increase. ‘Theft claims rose to £68m in the second quarter, up 21% from the same quarter last year. The number of claims, at nearly 13,000, is at its highest quarterly level since early 2013. The rise has partly been fuelled by the increasing use of high-tech devices enabling car thieves to steal cars without forcible entry’.
 

Current trends and methods:

The number of vehicles being stolen has gone up 30%. In 2013, 66,000 were stolen, that number rose to 86,000 in 2016 and the value of those stolen has been rising. Unless these are recovered quickly – usually via a tracker of some kind, the recovery rate for stolen vehicles is stubbornly low.

Evidence suggests that vehicles get ‘stolen to order’ or high-value parts are stolen from them.

Thieves continue to develop more sophisticated methods when targeting vehicles. These include:

  • Stealing vehicle keys from the owner’s home or other location, like a gym locker. 
  • On-Board-Diagnostic (OBD) port theft. Once the thief gains entry to the vehicle, using a piece of equipment plugged into the OBD port, letting them communicate with the car.
  • Signal jamming – one or more ‘jammers’ get left where cars are parked, like a supermarket car park. They emit a signal which prevents the lock command from a remote control key. The driver operates the remote control to lock the car, but the car stays unlocked, without their knowledge.
  • Relay station attack (RSA) – using a signal transmitter and receiver, the signal from the car key is relayed to a receiver near the car. The car thinks the key is present and allows the car be unlocked and started. This is particularly relevant to cars fitted with ‘keyless’ entry, although any car with keyless start is at risk, if the thief gets in the car.
     

Action being taken

We’re working with Thatcham Research to make vehicle manufacturers more aware of the risks posed to their vehicles. However, there doesn’t appear to be a willingness with some manufacturers to reduce the ‘convenience’ factor of keyless systems, as it may make their products less attractive to potential customers. A balance needs to be struck between advancements with keyless technology and the security of these devices.
 

Action you can take

Here are some ways you can protect your vehicles:

  • Park in garages, buildings or fenced areas and somewhere you can see the vehicle
  • Use perimeter lighting, walls, posts, intruder alarms and CCTV
  • Protect keys at home
  • Don’t leave valuables or tools in vehicles
  • Use steering wheel locks
  • Tracking devices.

Simple things like checking the vehicle is locked. As well as these, make sure you understand what your insurance policy provides cover for, that it does what it needs to do to and make sure you’re complying with the terms and conditions.
 

Future challenges

The likelihood of manufacturers shifting to a ‘virtual key’ (like an app) appears inevitable –already a reality with Mercedes and Tesla.Vehicle and parts theft continue to challenge. Developing technology giving the driver convenience with keyless entry brings additional security risks that can only be addressed by manufacturers.

Insurance companies might end up considering additional security requirements for vehicles fitted with this type of technology. They should also work with and influence manufacturers and Thatcham Research to attempt to reduce the risk associated with it.