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Trade Secrets From a Car Thief: What Criminals Looks For When They Want to Steal Your Car

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Have you ever left your car window cracked during a warm summer day to help the heat escape? Or, left a spare key in a secret area of the car for emergencies? If you have, you may have unknowingly put yourself at risk for car theft.

Despite the reduction in vehicle thefts over the past two decades, cities across America are starting to see an uptick in Car theft-related crimes. In fact, during the initial lockdown period of Coronavirus, car thefts drastically increased. According to an article from CNN, “Police in some major cities across the US are reporting upticks in car thefts since the start of the pandemic in mid-March, even while many other crimes have dipped in those same cities.”

Industry observers caution that thieves constantly devise new and sophisticated means of stealing autos. Tactics include acquiring smart keys, which eliminated hot-wiring to steal cars; switching vehicle identification numbers; and using stolen identities to secure loans for expensive vehicles. With that in mind, there are certain things car thieves look for if they really want to steal your car.

7 Things That Criminals Look For When They Want to Steal Your Car

Former car thief, Steve Fuller has revealed trade secrets that he looked for when he stole cars. Check out these seven tips that could mean the difference between holding onto your car and having to walk everywhere. Understanding these secrets can help you make safer choices when it comes to protecting what belongs to you.

1. Your Car Model Might Already Make It a Target.

Fuller found some vehicles easier to steal than others. His choice picks were: Honda, Toyota, Acura, and General Motors vehicles. Fuller added that “They have good resale value so the parts are in demand. It’s as simple as that.”

2. It Matters Where You Park Your Car

Car thieves avoid cars parked in front of houses and in driveways because they’re too wide open and visible. Dark secluded locations, such as apartment buildings and complexes, carports, underground parking, and parking garages, can be appealing to car thieves because they can have their pick of vehicles in one location. “I liked it because it’s quiet. I can hear if somebody was coming,” Fuller said. “All I really have to deal with was somebody coming down from their apartment to get in their vehicle, and at that time in the middle of night it’s not usually that often.”

3. Car Thieves Dislike 5 Things: Daytime, Kill Switches, Alarms, Nosy Neighbors and Security Cameras

Being quick and inconspicuous is necessary when stealing a car. That’s why car thieves avoid things that may call attention to themselves. This means stealing cars at a certain time. Fuller said he preferred to come back between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m., because most people are asleep. “It’s nice and quiet, less distractions, less people walking around,” he said.

Having a kill switch in your car can also deter thieves. Kill switches disrupt the flow of electricity at the battery or ignition or disable the fuel pump. If well hidden, kill switches may take a while to deactivate and can deter car thieves who don’t want to waste time and will move on to another car.

Good alarms with motion sensors, nosy neighbors, and security cameras also deter car thieves, who will simply go to other areas where they can avoid those certain things

4. You Should Reconsider Leaving Your Car Running

While it might seem like a great idea to warm your car up in the morning, you might as well put a bow on your car. Car thieves will simply hop in the car, put it in drive, and go. Police also warn that leaving your keys in your car at a gas station, even while you are pumping gas, is an invitation to have your car stolen.

5. Don’t Keep Spare Keys in Your Car   

Think you’ve got a great hiding spot for your spare keys? Car thieves know where to look. “Glove compartment, center console, door, change tray, you name it, it’s there. I found it in all those places,” Fuller said. Fuller said 90 percent of the vehicles he’s stolen came from him just scoping out the vehicle, finding the keys, and taking the vehicle.

Most importantly, Fuller said if he found a key to the car inside of it, it’s not a felony. “It’s called joyriding. It’s a misdemeanor, and I could take that vehicle, having a key to the vehicle that belongs to that vehicle,” he said. “It’s less risk to me.”

6. There Might Be a Key Inside Your Car You Don’t Know About

“Well, there are some vehicles that have valet keys… and a lot of people don’t know that they have a valet key inside their vehicle,” Fuller explained. Valet keys usually can unlock the driver’s side door and start the car, but can’t unlock the trunk or the glove box. This key is normally used when someone else operates your vehicle, such as a valet parking attendant. For example, Fuller said the valet key might be found inside the owner’s manual. In some BMW models, the valet key is usually in the car’s tool kit in the trunk. While most people don’t know they have a valet key, car thieves do, and they use them to easily steal and drive away with a car.

7. The Biggest Mistake You Could Make Is… Leaving the Window Open

Even one inch can be just what it takes for a car thief to easily steal your car. Most people believe that they can leave a little air in the car with the windows opened just a crack, but that no one can get in to the vehicle. To Fuller, a car with window cracked opened was an unlocked car. “A window that has enough room for me to stick my fingers in, I can get out of its track by rocking it back and forth until I get it out of the track,” Fuller explained. “Then, I can pry the window out of the track enough to where I can get my arm down in there and unlock the vehicle.”


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