Whether it's the work of elaborate theft rings or random individual crime, auto theft is big business.
On average, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), a vehicle was stolen every 25 seconds in the United States at a cost of about $8.6 billion a year in 2003.
Insurance for theft is included in the comprehensive part of your auto insurance policy that also covers fire, vandalism and weather-related damage.
The number of insured cars stolen and their cost directly affected insurance premiums.
By taking a few precautions, you can reduce the chances of having your vehicle stolen.
* Always remove your keys from your parked vehicle,
* Park with your front wheels turned sharply to the right or left and apply the emergency brake. This will make it difficult for a thief to tow your car,
* Consider installing an antitheft device or buying a car with an immobilizer system that prevents a thief from driving off with the car, and
* Park in a locked garage, patrolled or well-lit area whenever possible.
Unfortunately, carjacking has become a more common method of vehicle theft. Carjacking is the attempted or completed robbery of a vehicle by a stranger that includes the use of a threat or force.
You can protect yourself from this crime by:
* No rolling down your car window to a suspicious person,
* Keep your car doors locked and windows rolled up, and
* If a suspicious person is near your parked car, don't approach it. Keep walking and contact area security or police.
Insurance companies work together with the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) to crack down on criminal operations.
If you suspect vehicle theft activity, notify your local police or call the NICB anonymously at 1-800-TEL-NICB (1-800-835-6422).