Preventing car theft
Technological advancements mean criminals can now intercept and replicate the signal from the key fob that is used to open modern vehicles and start the ignition. They can do this if they are near your home, allowing them to steal the vehicle in a matter of minutes.
Watch this video from the West Midlands Police in the United Kingdom.
- Do not leave your key fob next to your front door or window
- Store keys in an RFID box to stop a signal being emitted
- Park vehicle in a secure area to deter criminals targeting your vehicle
Another way that criminals exploit the key fob is during the process of locking the vehicle. As you lock your car, criminals can intercept and block the “lock signal” sent by the key fob to the vehicle, leaving it unlocked. The criminal can then easily steal the contents inside the vehicle, or the vehicle itself.
- Be aware of suspicious people around you while you lock your car.
- Check the doors are locked before leaving the car.
And let’s not forget the obvious for all vehicles (yes, many people do…)
- Always lock your vehicle and don’t leave it unattended with the engine running
- Ensure car anti-theft devices are clearly visible (steering wheel and brake lock, alarms etc.)
- Never mark your car keys with your name and address (in case you lose the keys).
- Do not keep registration papers in your vehicle; this makes it difficult for the thief to sell it on the black market.
- Do not keep valuables or a GPS visible in the car.
Carjacking is a major issue in certain regions of the world. This involves an attack on a driver with the aim of robbing the person, stealing the car, or both.
Key tips to avoid carjacking
- Check the back seat or hatch for intruders before getting into your car.
- Once inside the car, lock all doors and, if possible, leave windows up until you have reached your destination.
- Remain alert and check that you are not being followed and that there are no suspicious vehicles and/or people following you, or loitering around your home.
- Be careful if you witness a minor accident or if someone tries to wave you down: it may be simulated as a distraction. If you suspect something is wrong, do not get out of the car, and open the window only slightly to speak. Drive away if you feel threatened.
- Do not resist if you are attacked. Whatever the value of your car, it is not worth your life.
What to do if your vehicle is stolen
- In the event that you see someone stealing your car, do not try to stop him physically. Instead, make as much noise as possible and call the police.
- Report the theft as soon as possible. Stolen vehicles are often used to commit other offences (bank robberies, murders, etc.).
- Never accept any attempt at blackmail or "business offers" from criminals in order to regain your vehicle. Inform the police in case of any contact with criminals.
- Be prepared: Always have the following information about your vehicle ready: year, make/model, license plate, Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), colour, any distinguishing features, radio number and GPS number.
- Keep note of distinguishing marks such as scratches, dents, etch or mark accessories.
Tips for buying a second-hand car
It is important to be vigilant when buying a second-hand vehicle.
- Make sure the stamped Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) corresponds with the number on the car documents and on small plates elsewhere in the vehicle. You can find the VIN on the right side of the engine bay.
- Check the VIN online; it will tell you what sort of vehicle you should be looking at. There are several websites that do this, such as www.carfax.com/, www.vindecoder.net/ and http://vindecoder.eu/.
- Check by daylight the door locks, the ignition lock and the chassis number so as to spot any scratches or irregularities. Signs of tampering could indicate a stolen vehicle.
- Ask for all the keys that should come with the car (an official distributor can advise). If the seller cannot produce all the keys, they should give a reasonable explanation.
- Check if the price is in line with the condition of the car. If the vehicle is much cheaper than similar vehicles on the market, then it could be stolen.
- If buying from a private individual, make sure that a mobile phone number is not your only contact with the seller.
For more details on ways to avoid purchasing a stolen vehicle, see below the brochure from the Belgian Ministry of the Interior entitled "What you ought to know before buying a secondhand vehicle".