Officials: Etch Your VIN and Stow Your Valuables to Fight Car Theft

Hooligan smashing windshieldThe best thing for drivers to do is stow their valuables to fight a new way that criminals are breaking into cars, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

Criminals are using “scanner boxes” to “pop some factory-made electronic locks in seconds,” according to the NICB. The devices use technology for keyless car entry, which drivers typically use for easy one-click access to their vehicle or to prevent getting locked out.

“Our law enforcement partners tell us they are seeing this type of criminal activity and have recovered some of the illegal devices,” Joe Wehrle, NICB’s president, said in a statement. “And unfortunately, some of these devices are available on the internet.”

USA Today reported that the technology may be linked to car burglaries in Long Beach, Calif., last year, when police said an “unknown technology” had allowed a trio of thieves quick access to eight vehicles in one night.

According to the NICB, drivers should take the following precautions to protect themselves:

  • Lock your vehicle no matter where you leave it.
  • Close windows and sun roofs.
  • Hide tempting items, including navigation systems (along with their suction cup mounts), phone or electronic device adaptors and power plugs.
  • Put shopping bags in the trunk.
  • Conceal visible cargo.

What Comprehensive Coverage Does — and Doesn’t — Cover

Comprehensive coverage covers drivers if their vehicle is stolen. But this gets trickier when it comes to car break-ins like the ones described above.

In the case of break-in, comprehensive coverage only applies to permanent parts of your vehicle like your car window, locks or catalytic converter that are stolen or damaged in the incident.

In some cases, even your car stereo isn’t guaranteed to be covered by comprehensive, according to Progressive.

Other items stolen from a car in a vehicle burglary, like purses and wallets, are not covered by auto insurance. You’ll need homeowners insurance coverage, or renters or condo, to cover those kinds of losses.

NICB Also Promotes VIN Etching

The NICB also promotes vehicle identification number (VIN) etching, which reduces the chance of thefts of cars and car parts.

Some providers also offer car insurance discounts for VIN-etched vehicles.

The NICB partnered with the Auto Club and local law enforcement to host free VIN-etching events in Torrance and Anaheim Hills, two suburbs in California.

According to KCAL 9 in Los Angeles, Auto Club drivers can check with their local branch about other free VIN-etching events.

Online Auto Insurance recently published a series about auto theft and how to prevent it. Check out those stories:

About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for Patch.com and the Desert Dispatch and was the editor in chief of the Guardian (the twice-weekly newspaper at the University of California, San Diego) before coming to Online Auto Insurance News.

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