Archive for May, 2016

Dude, where’s my car?

a- car thiefIf you don’t want to have your car ripped off, avoiding California is a good idea as seven out of the top 10 cities in the United States for auto theft are in the Golden State.    In one recent year, as many as nine California cities made this list!

Do you know the way to San Jose?   A lot of car thieves do as evidenced by the Bay Area  corridor leading the pack in auto thefts.    In fact, San Francisco leads the nation in auto thefts with over 29,000 vehicles ripped off in 2014.    During this same year, the only cities not in California were Seattle, Washington, Spokane, Washington,  and Odessa, Texas.

There is a silver lining in that auto theft is on the decline, and has been for a few years.   From 2012 to 2014, the FBI estimates that theft rates declined about 5.7% annually.    Theft rates have declined 42.8% since 2003.  This is largely the result of increased use of anti-theft devices and telematics systems.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) here are the top 10 cities for auto theft with rates based upon population (2014 data):

  1. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif. (29,093)
  2. Bakersfield, Calif. (5,211)
  3. Stockton-Lodi, Calif. (4,245)
  4. Odessa, Texas (886)
  5. Modesto, Calif. (3,047)
  6. Spokane-Spokane Valley, Wash. (3,032)
  7. Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif. (2,414)
  8. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash. (20,268)
  9. Fresno, Calif. (5,260)
  10. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. (10,531)

In addition to where you live, what you drive plays a big role in whether you may become a victim of auto theft.   Here is a list of the most frequently stolen automobiles:

  1. Honda Accord
  2. Honda Civic
  3. Ford F-Series
  4. Chevrolet Silverado
  5. Toyota Camry
  6. Dodge Caravan
  7. Dodge Ram
  8. Acura Integra
  9. Nissan Altima
  10. Nissan Maxima

As vehicle security continues to improve, one has to wonder what the crooks have up their sleeve.   For those who have read my insurance fraud thriller Swoop & Squat, one of the scams involved stealing and rebadging high dollar cars and shipping them to the Middle East and Asia to unsuspecting buyers.    But many scams aren’t that elaborate, focusing more on stealing a vehicle to strip it down and sell the parts.   In some instances, insurance fraud is involved as owners simply give their vehicles up for financial reasons.

In years passed, breaking into a vehicle was rather simple and could be accomplished with a jimmy or coat hanger.   I recall an old car that I once owned that could be hotwired in the event that I couldn’t find my keys.

Today, many vehicles have much more elaborate systems with remote entry and push button ignitions.   One can only imagine the potential as thieves hone their skills of hacking into master computer modules.   What will the future hold as manufactures develop self driving and eventually flying vehicles in the not too distant future.

What we do know is that thieves are on the prowl and cars provide lucrative targets.   Regardless of where you live or what you drive here are ten tips to protect your car from being ripped off:

  • Lock your car
  • Park in a residential garage
  • Lock the garage door
  • If no garage is available, park in a well-lit area
  • Utilize a vehicle alarm and location systems (you will likely get an insurance discount, too)
  • Don’t leave your vehicle unattended and running
  • Use a steering wheel locking device, such as a “Club”
  • Install a kill switch
  • Hide your valuables
  • Drive a stick (most Americans, including thieves, don’t know how to)


Christopher Tidball is an insurance claims consultant and author of multiple books, including the insurance fraud thriller Swoop & Squat.    He is a veteran of the insurance industry, starting as an adjuster and working in various management, special investigation and leadership roles.  To learn more, please visit


May 17, 2016 at 1:57 pm Leave a comment

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Chris Tidball is a claims and revenue management consultant and author of the "20 Essential Rules" series of self and organizational improvement books. You can ask him a question at

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