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Tip Center - Auto Theft

Auto Theft Prevention, Auto Theft Statistics, Auto Theft Information

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, auto theft is a very profitable business, generating nearly $8 billion a year. Despite declining auto theft rates, business continues to grow in the United States due to the ever increasing value of cars.

It's an awful feeling to be a victim of auto theft. According to the FBI, auto theft occurs about every 30 seconds in the United States, so if you are a victim, don't feel alone. is here to help. is the largest international auto theft database, it's both free and easy to search and report auto theft.


Auto Theft Prevention


Any car can be stolen by professional auto thieves, but if they want yours, make them work for it. Here are some ways to protect yourself from auto theft. The more difficult you make your car to steal, the less likely you will experience auto theft first hand.

These auto theft prevention techniques vary on your vehicle and location. Determine which auto theft prevention is best for you by examining both your budget and personal preferences.

Common sense auto theft prevention

Of all the auto theft prevention techniques, these are the easiest and most inexpensive to deter car thieves. These should be followed even if leaving your car for very a brief time, it takes a professional auto thief less than thirty seconds to steal a car.

  • Never leave the keys in the car.
  • Lock the doors
  • Close the windows
  • Park in well lit, visible areas.
  • Never leave the engine running and vehicle unlocked, no matter how short a period of time.
  • Hide all valuables

Auto theft warning devices

This is either a visible or audible auto theft prevention device to alert thieves your vehicle is protected. Car thieves prefer quick, easy and quite targets and will choose an unprotected car over one that poses difficulties. Popular auto theft prevention devices:

  • Steering column collars / "the club"
  • Audible auto theft alarms
  • Steering wheel / Brake pedal lock
  • Brake locks
  • Wheel locks
  • Tire locks / Tire deflators
  • Identification markers in or on vehicle
  • Window etching
  • Micro Dot Marking

Immobilizing Auto theft Prevention Device

This type of auto theft prevention prevents thieves from hot-wiring the car. These devices either use computer chips in ignition keys or obstruct electricity or fuel to the engine until a hidden switch disables the device. Popular immobilizing devices:

  • Smart key
  • Hidden kill switch
  • Fuse cut-off switch
  • Starter, ignition and / or fuel disabling device
  • Wireless, ignition authentication

Auto Theft Tracking Devices

Tracking devices emit a signal to the police or tracking center when an auto theft occurs. Tracking devices are very effective in helping the police recover stolen cars and bring auto thieves to justice. Tracking devices use a combination of GPS and wireless technology to track a stolen car. Some systems notify the owner when the car is moved, the car is then tracked with a computer. Popular auto theft tracking devices:

  • Factory installed systems: GM Onstar, Mercedes-Benz TeleAid, BMW Assist, Lexus Enform, Toyota Safety Connect
  • LoJack
  • Mobile IQ
  • Zoombak

For a more detailed explanation how each each auto theft tracking system works and costs, click here.

Important things to remember:

If your car is left unlocked, the keys left in the car or valuables left in sight, your chance of becoming a victim of auto theft is: 1 in 30

If your car is locked, the keys removed and valuables concealed, chances of becoming an auto theft victim is: 1 in 1000

If your car is locked, the keys removed and valuables concealed with the use of a visible anti-auto-theft device, your chance of being an auto theft victim is: 1 in 30,000

When ever you are involved in an accident, be sure to keep you cool. Some car jackings occur by creating a low impact accident, when the driver pulls over the auto thieves proceed to jack the car. Always pull over in a well lit, well populated area and don't be afraid to call the non-emergency police line to have a squad car come to the scene for both your protection and for an official police report of the incident. This can help for safety, insurance purposes and to avoid being a victim of auto theft.

Different Types of Auto Theft


Auto theft may occur for a number of reasons. Here are some examples of why auto theft happens.

Sell the stolen car

The main reason most cars are stolen is to sell it again. The stolen auto is typically brought across state lines or even across international borders. Then the vehicle identification numbers may be altered or removed, the title and registration forged and the stolen car repainted to avoid detection.

Sell the stolen car's parts

One of the most common reasons auto theft occurs is to sell the parts. Parting out a stolen car can bring a thief up to four times what would be gained by selling the whole car. Auto theft rings will set up shops called "chop shops" where the stolen car will get stipped down for the parts in a matter of minutes. Many times the thieves will partner with dishonest auto repair shops, mechanics and auto body shops to buy the parts at a major discount, only to turn around and charge the customer full price.

To use the stolen car

Sometimes an auto theft is merely to provide transportion. Many times the stolen car is used in other crimes which is why it is imperative to report a car stolen immediately upon discovery. After the stolen car is no longer needed, it is abandoned ir sold before it can be traced to the thief.

Trade the stolen car for drugs

This type of auto theft is often referred to as "cars for crack" because crack is typically the desired drug. The drug addict will leave the car with the dealer for collateral. The dealer will then use the car to run drugs and even commit more crimes. If the car is not returned or it is seized by law enforcement, the drug addict will then report it as a stolen car. If there is an insurance settlement, the drug addict will use the money to purchase more drugs. If the car is returned, the drug addict will then repeat the process for more drugs.

Auto theft for joyriding

Juvniles will commit auto theft for status with friends or simply for the thrill. Mostly the stolen car is abandoned after use, but alamingly more ofter these juvinile thieves are getting invovled with auto theft rings.

Auto theft to commit more crimes

Sometimes auto theft occurs to commit other crimes using the stolen car, for example, drive-by shootings, burglaries or a get away car for armed robberies. The criminals intention is to reduce the chance the crimes commited will be traced back to them by using a stolen car.

Auto theft for insurance fraud

This type of auto theft, referred to as "owner give-up," genearally happens with either leased cars or cars with high mileage with high-mlieage penalty costs. The vehicle owner typically arranges to have the car stolen or simple leaves the car in an area known for a high rate of auto theft. Other times, the vehicle owner will hide the car, sink it in a lake, or torch the it to insure it is a total loos if found. Initially it may be investigated as an auto theft, but if caught, the offender will be charged with felony insurance fraud.

Auto theft for vehicle cloning

This type of auto theft can, at times, be virtually untracable. An auto thief will remove the stolen cars VIN and replace it with a VIN from a car that has been wrecked and purchased from a wrecking yard. A false title, registration and vehicle history are then created for the DMV and the stolen car is sold at full market price, only to be stolen again months later and the whole process repeated. Another type of vehicle cloning is when a thief removes the owner's registration and insurance card, the documents are then used to obtain license plates registered to the victim. If the car is then used in a crime or involved in an accident, the police will come to you thinking the car belongs to you. Iliminating yourself from any inolvement can be a very long and tedious process. The best way to avoid being a victim of this type of cloning is to not keep registration, insurance cards and any other important documents in the car.

Auto Theft Videos


Auto Theft In Action

Auto Theft Bait Car - Thief Caught Red Handed

Techniques Of A Professional Auto Theft Ring

Auto Theft Statistics


According to the the FBI's 2008 Uniform Crime Reports, an auto theft occurs about thirty seconds in the United States. Auto theft rates vary from month to month and geographical location. To see the top ten stolen cars, click here.

According to the FBI's 2008 Uniform Crime Reports, auto theft fell 12.7 percent from 2007 to 2008, with 956,846 auto thefts reported in 2008.

In 2008, only %12 of auto theft cases were solved.

Areas that experienced the highest amount of auto theft for 2008 from highest to lowest: the South %37.8, the West %33.9, the Midwest %18.3 and the Northeast %10.0.

Based on The Department of Justice latest data from 1993 to 2002, car jacking only accounted for %3 of auto thefts and occur mostly in urban areas.

Top Ten States For Auto Theft


This is the list of top ten states for auto theft from highest to lowest:

  1. California 242,693
  2. Texas 95,429
  3. Florida 76,437
  4. Arizona 54,849
  5. Michigan 50,017
  6. Washington 45,899
  7. Georgia 43,163
  8. Illinois 37,641
  9. Ohio 37,425
  10. New York 32,134
Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Top Ten Cities For Auto Theft


These are the top ten cities for auto theft based per capita:

Rank Metropolitan Statistical Area Vehicles stolen Rate (1)
1 Modesto, CA 4,235 829.26
2 Laredo, TX 1,960 827.21
3 Yakima, WA 1,828 779.32
4 San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA  22,554 751.53
5 Bakersfield, CA 5,918 739.33
6 Stockton, CA 4,963 738.12
7 Las Vegas-Paradise, NV 13,662 732.25
8 Albuquerque, NM 6,182 730.81
9 San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA 30,735 719.03
10 Fresno, CA 6,533 718.58
Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau.

The Most Common Ways Auto Theft Occurs And How To Avoid Them


This is a list of the most common ways auto theft occurs. Knowing this can help defend yourself from being a victim.

  • Checking for an alarm system. Throughout the years, people have been conditioned to ignoring car alarms on the account a loud motorcycle or truck can set a car alarm off. People's senses are so dulled to these car alarms, car alarms are often ignored while a car is being stolen. Prevention - instead of using a car alarm that just makes noise, use a car alarm that has a pager that alerts you if the alarm is activated. Another excellent prevention for auto theft is an ignition disabler. This makes it unable to start the car without pressing the hidden ignition disable switch.
  • Smash and grab. The most common form of auto theft; breaking a window, grabbing what ever it is the thief is after and running away. Prevention - always remove anything of value from plain sight. The majority of crime is "crime of opportunity." Also, if you have a stereo with a removable face plate, bring it with you instead of leaving it under the seat or in the glove box.
  • Drive off in a car with the keys in it. Auto thieves case out ATM's, movie rental store drop offs or other businesses with quick drop off or pick up. When a person walks away from a running car, they jump in and the car is stolen. Prevention - never leave your car running or with the keys in it for even a moment, that's all it takes for an auto theft to occur.
  • Cutting a steering wheel. If you have a steering wheel locking device to deter from auto theft, a thief will actually cut the steering wheel to remove the anti-theft device. Prevention - invest in a "kill switch" that disables your vehicle from starting.
  • Disabling the alarm system. Professional auto thieves know how to disable a car alarm within 15 seconds if they know what kind it is. Prevention - when having an alarm system installed in your car, go to a professional alarm installer instead of a big retail chain store. Also, do not advertise with car alarm brand stickers. This tips professional thieves off when they know how to disable certain alarm makes.
  • Auto theft using back up or spare keys. Many stolen vehicles are done so with the actual car keys. Prevention - Don't ever leave or "hide" any spare or back up key in the car or under the bumper in a magnetic key holder as thieves do look for these.
  • Stealing vehicles from big parking lots. Thieves often case out big parking lots such as that at sporting events or concerts. Prevention - park in secured, well lit parking lots when possible, especially ones with attendants on duty.

How To File An Auto Theft Police Report


If you have experienced auto theft, report it to the police immediately. This increases your chance to recover your auto and speeds the insurance compensation process.

Here are some general guidelines to create an auto theft police report:

  • Go in to you local police station. If you do not know the location of the local precinct, call the non-emergency phone number and they will give you the address.
  • Once at the police station, request the correct paper work to file and auto theft police report.
  • Be sure to enter as much information of the auto theft as possible, especially VIN, license plate number, auto color, where the auto was last seen, any identifying marks or stickers, etc.
  • Once you have completed the auto theft police report, request a copy of the report. If the police are unable to provide a copy of the auto theft police report, be sure to get the auto theft police report number as this is important for insurance claims and future reference.

Auto theft fraud


Auto theft fraud is when the owner of a car reports an auto theft when in reality the owner themselves disposed of the car for insurance claims and / or to get out of car payments. Here are a few examples of auto theft fraud:

Owner Give-Ups

The vehicle owner lies about the auto theft then destroys the vehicle to collect an insurance claim. Many times the vehicle reported stolen will be found burned or damaged in secluded areas, sunken in a lake and even at times found buried underground.

30 Day Hold Out

When a vehicle needs extensive repairs, the owner will report the vehicle stolen and hide it for 30 days - long enough for the insurance claim to settle. Once the claim is settled and compensation paid, many times the vehicle is found abandoned.

Export Fraud Scam

Once a bank loan is secured for a new vehicle, an insurance policy is obtained for it. The owner then creates a fraudulent auto theft report, when in reality it was shipped overseas to be sold on the black market. The owner then receives compensation for the insurance policy and profits earned from the black market transactions overseas.

Ghost Vehicles

The creation of an artificial title or registration to create insurance on a vehicle that does not exist. An auto theft report is then created to file a fraudulent insurance claim. Antique or luxury vehicles are commonly used in this scheme, producing larger insurance compensation.

Auto Theft Tracking Systems Overview


If you have experienced auto theft, then you know that terrible thought, "I'm sure I left it right here." Talking with people who have experienced auto theft, they will tell you the importance of stolen vehicle tracking and recovery systems.

Vehicle tracking and recovery systems use a combination of a GPS transmitter in the stolen car for tracking and cellular technology for transmission to and from monitoring centers. However, these do have technological limitations. A GPS requires clear line of sight to at least three satellites to locate the stolen car's position. Hiding the stolen car in a concrete parking structure or something similar blocks the lines of sight. There are sometimes also "dead zones" that cellular phone service doesn't work.

The one stolen car tracking device that is an exception is LoJack which uses FM radio frequency. LoJack also works with police cars specially equipped to hone in on the stolen car. The LoJack system has a 90 percent recovery rate which makes it the preferred system of the police.

Here is a list of stolen vehicle recovery systems and how they work for you to decide whether or not investing in one of these stolen vehicle recovery systems is worth the investment and which on would be right for you.

Factory / Manufacturer Installed Stolen Vehicle Recovery Systems

  • GM Onstar - GM's OnStar service is better known for it's crash notification feature but it also offers stolen vehicle recovery. Once a police report has been made, contact OnStar immediately. From there the police and OnStar will work together to recover the stolen vehicle. If the stolen car is involved in a chase, OnStar has a new feature called Stolen Vehicle Slowdown that assist's police to capture the thief and to prevent accidents. For the first year OnStar is free, after the first year the cost is $18.95/month or $199/year.
  • Mercedes-Benz TeleAid - The first year is free then is costs $240/year to renew. A subscription-based service is used by Mercedes-Benz that was developed by Hughes Telematics.
  • BMW Assist - The first four years is free ( the model year must be 2007 or newer), after the first four years or for models 2004 - 2006 it costs $199/year.
  • Lexus Enform - except the SC, a free year trial of Lexus Enform is offered on select 2010 models with navigation. After the first year trial it will cost $264.90 per year.
  • Toyota Safety Connect - A free trial of Safety Connect is included on select 2010 Toyota models. After the first year it costs $139.95 per year.

Aftermarket Stolen Vehicle Recovery Systems

  • LoJack - A small radio transponder is installed in one of 20 different places. This makes it difficult to detect or for quick removal. Once the car is reported stolen to the police, the information will then be quickly sent to the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) which has a cross-checking for LoJack's. With a match a signal is then sent which turns on the LoJack's transponder. A silent signal is then sent to the local police equipped with LoJack vehicle tracking units, which can then track the stolen car. If the thieves are still near the stolen vehicle they can then be apprehended. The LoJack system has a one time fee of $695 or $995 for an early warning feature. LoJack uses FM radio technology to track the stolen car.
  • Mobile IQ - Mobile IQ is made by AirIQ, it's a vehicle recovery system that can be installed with a factory or after market alarm system. When a car is stolen, the Mobile IQ alarm is triggered and transceiver unit inside the car is activated, notifying a monitoring center. You will then be contacted by your choice of e-mail, text message, pager or phone by the monitoring center. At this point you must notify the police with the car's location. Now you or the police (you must provide your Mobile IQ log in information to them) can track the stolen vehicle on the Web. Mobile IQ costs $499 for the system plus and average $100 installation. The Mobile IQ service is free for the first year then then $100 per year after that.
  • Zoombak - This vehicle tracking device is a lower price but the downfall is that it will not notify you if your car is stolen, this could potentially loose you hours or even days before you discover the car theft and report it to the police. Once the theft is discovered, you notify the police and then track the stolen vehicle location from the web like the Mobile IQ tracking system. Zoombak is also portable which means you can remove from your car, if you ever got lost in the woods or needed other rescue your location can be tracked. Zoombak costs $199 for the device, the service is $15 per month and has unlimited usage.

Auto Theft Database On

Top has the largest international auto theft database. Police authorities, pawn shops, professional vehicle buyers and sellers, and consumers use our service everyday. It's free to both search for and report a stolen car on the auto theft database and super easy too! For details on how to report a stolen car on, click here.