What can you do to prevent auto theft?

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The news from the FBI’s release of preliminary crime statistics for 2010 demonstrates that auto theft extended its seven year streak of decline in the United States. Despite this positive information, nearly three-quarters of a million cars were stolen in 2010. Vehicular theft remains a booming business, and the FBI estimates that consumers lose out to the tune for more than $8 billion annually.

One-third to one-half of the cars stolen in the United States are never returned to their rightful owners. Instead, they either find their way to chop shops that disassemble these stolen automobiles for the individual parts, because the profit margin from parting a car out on some models far exceeds what a criminal can get for the car alone. Other cars are exported out of the country to be sold on the black market.

While thieves do seek out and target specific makes and models as preferred objectives, any car has the potential to be stolen. But that doesn’t mean you’re powerless to do anything to help prevent your car from being pilfered – there are a number of steps you can take that may keep your car from becoming another statistic.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), a not-for-profit organization that specializes in the detecting insurance fraud and motor vehicle theft offers a wealth of tools for consumers, such as VIN checks to find out if a car has been stolen or has a salvage title. They also suggest that car owners institute a four layered approach to protect against having your car stolen. These four layers include:

Use Common Sense

These are the basic steps you should always take, and they’re quite easy. Make sure to always:

  • Take your keys out of the ignition
  • Roll up your windows and lock your doors
  • Park in a public area with good lighting and visibility

Use Warning Devices

These are designed to let a thieve know that your car isn’t defenseless. Such devices include:

  • Alarms with audio alerts
  • Brake locks
  • Brake pedal and steering wheel locks
  • Micro dot marking
  • Theft deterrent decals
  • Unique identity markers inside and on the car
  • VIN etching on windows
  • Wheel locks

Immobilizers

These devices either prevent ignition bypass and hot-wiring, utilize computer ID chips in ignition keys, or keep the car from having electrical current or fuel delivery until they’re deactivated. They include:

  • Disabling switches for fuel pump, ignition and starter
  • Fuse cut-offs
  • Smart keys
  • Wireless ignition authentication

Tracking Devices

The final layer of protection isn’t so much an anti-theft device, but rather, should help authorities reclaim your car after it has been stolen. Tracking devices produce a signal that can be used by police or other third parties can use to actively track or locate a vehicle. These include factory systems, such as General Motor’s OnStar telematics and LoJack. The best combine wireless technology with GPS, which provides location to within three meters, anywhere on the planet.

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