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How Vehicle Theft Happens and How to Protect Yourself

Since their invention, cars have been targeted by thieves. While automobile manufacturing and vehicle security have become more sophisticated over the years, so have the resources used by organized crime.


The situation is so dire that Quebec and Ontario saw a 50% YoY increase in car thefts in 2022. This isn’t only due to the brazenness of the criminals but also to new technology like keyless entry offering new attack vectors.


This article will go over the various ways cars get stolen and detail the security measures available to you.


Understanding Car Theft

In order to be adequately protected, it’s important to do a deep dive into car theft, why and how it is done. Once you have that information, you can take the right security measures for your vehicle.


Why are cars stolen?

Cars are in high demand around the world as some common vehicle brands, such as Toyota and Lexus are far more expensive overseas, which leads some consumers to turn towards the black market to obtain a vehicle or replacement parts.


This created a lucrative market for small-time thieves and organized crime organizations alike.


For most criminals, car theft is a volume crime. They need to steal as many cars as possible according to demand. Organized groups will provide “shopping lists” to their teams with specific amounts and models required. These highly experienced thieves can steal a car in as little as 60 seconds.


Where do stolen cars end up?

A small percentage of vehicles are stolen in order to commit other crimes and are later abandoned, but the vast majority are stolen by highly organized groups that steal to obtain vehicle parts or to ship vehicles overseas.


Most thieves operate in the same fashion, preferring to steal a vehicle and then "cool it off" to ensure that there are no active tracking devices in the vehicle. This just means that they steal the car and park it elsewhere for several days. Once it is deemed safe, the vehicles are then usually taken to a clandestine garages, often referred to as 'chop shops' where the vehicles are either broken down for parts or prepared to be shipped overseas. The vehicles are then stored in large shipping containers. These shipping containers can hold multiple vehicles and is filled over a period of weeks or sometimes months, typically.


What types of vehicles are stolen?

An important aspect of car theft is the make and model. While you might think that expensive vehicles would be targeted more for their resale value, regular and popular models like sedans and small SUVs are much more at risk. Here is a list of the most stolen vehicles in Canada:

  1. Honda CR-V (2016-2021)

  2. Ford F series (2015-2020)

  3. Honda Civic (2016-2021)

  4. Jeep Grand Cherokee (2011-2020)

  5. Honda Pilot (2016-2021)

  6. Toyota Highlander (2013-2019)

  7. Honda Accord (2018-2021)

  8. Toyota Tacoma (2016-2021)

  9. Toyota RAV4 (2013-2018)

  10. Acura RDX (2019-2021)


How are vehicles stolen?

We’ve come a long way since Slim Jims and hot wiring. While those now rudimentary methods are still used here and there, thieves’ methods have evolved just as vehicle technology has.


The most common ways vehicles are stolen include:


Master Keys

Master keys, as their name entails, can open any lock for a specific model and year of car. They are made by manufacturers for use during production and to make it easier for dealerships to move cars around their lot. If these keys are stolen by thieves, they can be used to steal multiple cars in a very discreet way.


Forced entry

Yes, this is still a thing. Thieves still sometimes smash a vehicle window or break the door lock to gain entry.


Keyless entry hacking

Newer cars are now largely governed by onboard computers that control everything from door locks to ignition and even steering in certain models. Manufacturers also increasingly have phone apps that let owners execute a variety of features. These systems are easily hacked by experienced thieves, allowing them to gain access and launch keyless ignition to steal the car.


On-board diagnostic port hacking

This port is often present on newer cars and is used by mechanics to gain a variety of information on the car that can be helpful in fixing it. However, this can also allow hackers to gain access to the car’s electronic control unit (ECU).


By gaining access to the ECU, hackers can clone keyless entry information to a blank fob to open the car and steal it.


Carjacking

This brazen method of car theft is less common in Canada but is definitely an issue in certain cities with high crime rates. Car thieves simply force open doors of vehicles which are stopped with the engine running, pulling the driver out and driving off with the vehicle.


Fraudulent purchases

Thieves sometimes purchase vehicles from car dealerships using false identities and often by the time the dealership becomes aware of what happened, the vehicle has already been shipped overseas.


From the dealer’s lot

Most car dealerships park their vehicles in outside lots with varying levels of security and are targeted by thieves. The most common and low-risk method they steal those vehicles is by simply breaking into cars to steal them.


How To Protect Your Vehicle

Car thieves are first and foremost opportunists. They will seek out their vehicles and target those that are in the right place at the right time, with the lowest risk factor. These simple tips truly help to make your vehicle a little less enticing.


Get an effective, multi-level security system

Get an effective tracking and recovery device such as a Tag Tracking device which has 3 levels of protection, prevention, identification, and recovery. Just a simple logo in the window of a vehicle, indicating that it is equipped with a tracking system reduces the instance of theft significantly! Thieves are most likely to move on to the same model that is not equipped with a tracking system. Tag Tracking also installs multiple, small, wireless devices in extremely hard-to-reach places within the vehicle. Tag is the only tracking and recovery system to employ a dedicated in-house, highly-trained recovery team to retrieve the vehicle.


Tag also functions anywhere in North America!


Lock your vehicle

While this might seem like a no-brainer, thieves do check for unlocked doors before doing anything else. In fact, police forces around the world report that a shocking number of robberies every year are attributed to a car owner forgetting to lock their vehicle before leaving it unattended.


Keep valuables out of sight

Don’t stand out. Your valuables could catch the eye of a would be thief. While hiding your valuables won’t necessarily stop a thief from stealing your vehicle, it’s still a tried and true security measure.


Parking in the right location

Parking in a public, well-lit area is another simple and effective way for thieves to move on to another vehicle, in a more opportune location.


Car alarms and immobilizers

Car alarms and immobilizers can be disabled quite easily by an experienced thief but these can certainly slow them down and attract unwanted attention.


Car theft will likely remain ever present. It is simply too lucrative to crime organizations with a relatively low level of risk involved. Therefore, we hope that this article was informative and will help you protect your vehicle as best as you can.

Contact us today to get more information about getting Tag installed on your vehicle.

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