Car security - how to stop thieves

Car security - how to stop thieves
In 2017, figures obtained by the RAC showed that there had been a 30% rise in car thefts in England and Wales between 2013 and 2016 - here's how to stay safe.

Car technology is always evolving, but while our cars are becoming more capable, so are the thieves who are targeting them.  

Criminals have upped their game, developing sophisticated techniques aimed at bypassing vehicle anti-theft devices, however, there are steps you can take to reduce your chances of falling victim.

1. Don’t just rely on your key fob

Always locking your car when you leave it goes without saying, but make sure you double check the car is actually locked.

Some vehicles will use an audible or visual signal, while others will feature ‘pins’ on the inside of the windows, which will lower when the doors have been locked.

Don’t simply rely on your key fob, as some thieves use ‘jammers’ to intercept the signal between the fob and the car, leaving the vehicle unlocked and vulnerable to theft. These signal jammers might be in a criminal’s pocket or left in the bushes at the side of a car park, so be on your guard.

It might seem like a hassle to check every door, including the boot, but it’s the only sure-fire way of ensuring the car is locked.

2. Avoid being a victim of a ‘relay attack’

Latest figures released by vehicle tracking specialists, Tracker, revealed that 96% of motorists are at risk of having their car stolen using a ‘relay attack’.

An increasing number of car thieves are using this method, which involves two criminals working together using electronic signal relay devices.

One criminal uses a device to receive the key signal from inside the home, transferring the signal to a second box, which is placed alongside the car. In effect, this tricks the car into ‘thinking’ the key is there, allowing the thieves to unlock the vehicle and drive away.

Although the signal can pass through doors, walls and windows, it cannot penetrate metal, so placing the keys inside a metal box, signal blocking wallet or safe will protect your vehicle from a ‘relay attack’.

MORE ADVICE: How to spot a clocked car

3. Choose the right place to park

Don't just park in the first space you see - try to find a place that's well-lit and open to public view.

If you need to use a car park, try to find one that's security patrolled, covered by CCTV, or that's approved for safer parking by Park Mark.

If you’re at the shops or in a busy town centre car park, you should park close to other shoppers, rather than away from other cars.

Thieves will be less likely to target your vehicle if they believe they might be disturbed.

4. Don't display any belongings

Avoid car vandalism by taking your belongings with you when you park.

Having your coat or bags in view, or just leaving loose change on the dashboard could be enough to tempt somebody to break in and leave you with a repair bill for a broken window.

If you have a parcel shelf or load cover in the boot, it might be best to open or remove it, which will show would-be car thieves that there’s nothing to steal.      

MORE NEWS: Vehicle vandalism up across England and Wales

5. Take out your stereo and sat-nav

If your car stereo has a front panel that stops it from working when it's removed, take this with you. If it has a flap or cover, remember to shut this to shield your stereo from view.

Take your sat-nav system with you too, remembering to remove the holder and to clean any tell-tale suction marks from the windscreen.

6. Add a car alarm, immobiliser or tracking device

Most modern cars will come with a factory fitted immobiliser, but adding a Thatcham-approved car alarm can reduce your car insurance premium as well as the risk of car theft.

If you have no car security at all, make fitting an immobiliser a top priority.

Fitting a tracking device won’t prevent a vehicle from being stolen, but it will increase the chances of it being recovered and returned by the police.

These devices aren’t the preserve of high-end cars, as research by Tracker found that three out of four vehicles stolen and recovered were worth less than £20,000.

In fact, 27% of vehicles recovered by Tracker in 2016 were valued at less than £5,000.

7. Be seen to be secure

Adding a visual deterrent to your car is a good way to avoid car theft and often enough to make a thief look for an easier option.

Use a sturdy lock for the steering wheel, pedals or gearstick, and have your car's registration number etched onto the windows.

These might be old-school deterrents, but they’re making a comeback in the digital age. Many thieves are opportunistic, and they might pass on a car they perceive to be too much hassle.

8. Take good care of your keys

As cars have become more secure, stealing car keys has become a top priority for car thieves.

Never leave your keys unattended in public and when you're at home make sure your keys are both out of sight and out of reach.

Some criminals have been known to use wire to remove keys through a letterbox, so avoid keeping them in the porch or hallway.

But never take the keys upstairs or hide them in the bedroom. If a thief is that determined to gain access to a vehicle, better to let them take it than to put you or your family at risk.

9. Keep your documents at home

Don't leave your logbook or service records in your car. It might seem like a sensible place for them, but if you're a victim of car theft, the documents will make it easier for the car to be sold and you could become a victim of identity fraud.

Similarly, don’t leave letters, bank statements or forms of identification in the car. Again, this puts you at risk of identity theft.

READ MORE: Driving without shoes - is it illegal?

10. Don't lose your wheels

Alloy wheels can make your car a target for thieves, so protect your alloys with locking wheel nuts.

These are cheap to buy, easy to fit and can be very difficult to remove without the correct key.

It’s possible to purchase a locking wheel nut remover over the internet, but a lock will deter opportunist thieves.

11. Stay safe in traffic

Car safety is just as important when you're in the car as it is when you're parked.

If you're in slow-moving traffic or stuck in a jam, close your windows, lock your doors and keep valuables out of sight.

12. Don’t leave your car running

It might be tempting to leave the car running – especially if you’re warming the cabin on a frosty morning – but you run the risk of having the car stolen, not to mention getting a fine too.

Take care when de-icing the car, as an opportunistic thief could steal the vehicle in a couple of seconds.

The same is true when popping into a shop, dropping the children at the school gate, or meeting somebody at the station. Switch off the engine and lock the doors.

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