This “Mystery Device” Can Unlock and Start Your Vehicle

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The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) says new technology is being used to not only unlock and open vehicles, but to also start and steal them.

NICB recently obtained one of the so-called “mystery devices” that the public was first warned about over two years ago. At the time, thieves were being seen on security cameras across the country, using unknown devices to unlock vehicles and steal valuables inside. In recent months, NICB has noted reports of thieves not only opening the vehicles but also starting them and driving away.

The device obtained by NICB was purchased via a third-party security expert from an overseas company. It was developed by engineers in an effort to provide manufacturers and other anti-theft organizations the ability to test the vulnerability of various vehicles systems. Called a “Relay Attack” unit, this particular model only works on cars and trucks that use a keyless remote and a push-button ignition.

mysterydeviceinfographic-photoversion-final-113016-webIn a series of unscientific tests at different locations over a two-week period, 35 different makes and models of cars, SUVs, minivans and a pickup truck were tested. We partnered with NICB member company CarMax, because they are the nation’s largest used car retailer and have nearly every make and model in their inventory. Tests were also done at a new car dealership, an independent used car dealer, at an auto auction and on NICB employee vehicles and ones owned by private individuals.

The vehicles were tested to see if the device could:
* open the door
* start the vehicle
* drive it away
* turn off and restart the engine without the original fob present

deviceinaction

NICB was able to open 54% of the vehicles that were tested.

The NICB was able to open 19 (54 percent) of the vehicles and start and drive away 18 (51 percent) of them. Of the 18 that were started, after driving them away and turning off the ignition, the device was used to restart 12 (34 percent) of the vehicles.

NICB says there are a number of different devices believed to be offered for sale to thieves. Some use different technology and may work on different make and models and ignition systems. More expensive models may have a greater range and better capabilities for opening and starting a vehicle.

“We’ve now seen for ourselves that these devices work,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. “Maybe they don’t work on all makes and models, but certainly on enough that car thieves can target and steal them with relative ease. And the scary part is that there’s no warning or explanation for the owner. Unless someone catches the crime on a security camera, there’s no way for the owner or the police to really know what happened. Many times, they think the vehicle has been towed.”

Wehrle says it’s important for law enforcement officers to be aware of this threat and be on the lookout for thieves who may be using the technology.

According to NICB’s Chief Operating Officer Jim Schweitzer, who oversees all NICB investigations, vehicle manufacturers must continue their efforts to counter the attacks on anti-theft technology.

“Vehicles are a valuable commodity and thieves will continue to wage a tug of war with the manufacturers to find a way to steal them,” said Schweitzer. “Anti-theft technology has been a major factor in reducing the number of thefts over the past 25 years. The manufacturers have made tremendous strides with their technology, but now they have to adapt and develop countermeasures as threats like this surface.”

A look at the "mystery device" obtained by NICB.

A look at the “mystery device” obtained by NICB.

While there may not be an effective way of preventing this kind of theft at this time, NICB advises drivers to always lock their vehicles and take the remote fob or keys with them. Drivers should also be on the lookout for suspicious persons or activity and alert law enforcement rather than confronting a possible thief.

It’s also a good idea to never invite a break-in by leaving valuables in plain sight. And once thieves get inside, they can easily steal a garage door opener and valuable papers such as the vehicle registration that could lead them to your home. So take the garage door opener with you and take a picture of your registration on your cell phone rather than keeping it in the glove compartment.

 

Smokies Wildfires Devastate Tennessee Communities

1632399_1280x720The recent wildfires that quickly ripped through Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains threatened the lives of tens of thousands of residents in the Gatlinburg area. The fire, likely a result of arson, has already claimed the lives of 11 people as of Friday morning.

Right now, insurance company representatives are in the field staffing catastrophe centers and working non-stop to assist victims in rebuilding their lives, their homes and their businesses. As hard as these professionals work to quickly handle the thousands of claims that these kinds of events generate, there are always some victims who experience additional pain—not from the fires, but from greedy scam artists and unscrupulous contractors.

After a natural disaster salespeople go door to door in damaged neighborhoods, offering cleanup or repair services. While many of these are honest and reputable, others are not. The dishonest ones may pocket the payment without completing the job or use inferior materials and perform shoddy work not up to code.

NICB suggests you consider these tips before hiring a contractor:

  • Get more than one estimate
  • Get everything in writing.  Cost, work to be done, time schedules, guarantees, payment schedules and other expectations should be detailed
  • Demand references and check them out
  • Ask to see the contractor’s driver’s license and write down the license number and their vehicle’s license plate number
  • Never sign a contract with blanks; unacceptable terms can be added later
  • Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until the work is finished and ensure reconstruction is up to current code
  • Make sure you review and understand all documents sent to your insurance carrier
  • Never let a contractor pressure you into hiring them
  • Never let a contractor interpret the insurance policy language
  • Never let a contractor discourage you from contacting your insurance company

You can download our disaster fraud brochure and other fraud awareness materials here.

If you believe you have been approached by an unscrupulous contractor or adjuster, or have been encouraged to fabricate an insurance claim, contact your insurance company or call the NICB toll-free at 1-800-TEL-NICB (1-800-835-6422). You may also text keyword “fraud” to TIP411 (847411) or report it online by visiting our Web site at www.nicb.org.

‘Tis the Season to Steal

cr122k15-gift_car_openerWhen you’re making the rounds at the stores this holiday season, make sure your car isn’t on someone’s gift list. Unattended vehicles, especially those loaded with valuables, make attractive targets for thieves.

New data released today by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) shows a total of 9,600 vehicles were reported stolen in 2015 on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Holiday vehicle thieves had their busiest day in 2015 on Halloween, stealing 2,238 vehicles according to NICB’s 2015 Annual Holiday Vehicle Theft Report. Theft data is culled from the National Crime Information Center’s (NCIC) stolen vehicle file, which showed a total of 759,237 vehicle thefts for the year.

After Halloween, New Year’s Eve was the next most active holiday with 2,227 thefts. Labor Day came in third with 2,171 thefts followed by Christmas Eve with 2,071 thefts. Memorial Day rounds out the top five holidays for 2015 with 2,040 thefts.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the holidays with the fewest thefts in 2015 were: Christmas Day (1,620); Thanksgiving (1,653); Valentine’s Day (1,690); President’s Day (1,787) and Independence Day (1,981).

Holidays ranked by the number of thefts in 2015 were:

  1. Halloween (2,238)
  2. New Year’s Eve (2,227)
  3. Labor Day (2,171)
  4. Christmas Eve (2,071)
  5. Memorial Day (2,040)
  6. New Year’s Day (2,029)
  7. Independence Day (1,981)
  8. President’s Day (1,787)
  9. Valentine’s Day (1,690)
  10. Thanksgiving (1,653)
  11. Christmas Day (1,620)

While the holiday with the most thefts was Halloween, the most thefts on a single day in all of 2015 occurred on Monday, June 15, with 2,579.

A special feature included in today’s report is a look at vehicle thefts occurring on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, which is widely viewed as the start of the holiday shopping season. In recent years, many national retailers have launched Black Friday specials on Thanksgiving evening while families may still be carving their turkeys.

The lure of added shopping hours—and the presence of unattended vehicles in store parking lots—may be contributing to higher vehicle thefts on Black Friday.

The following graph shows the number of vehicle thefts reported on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday from 2011 through 2015. There are, on average, over 30 percent more vehicle thefts on Black Friday than the day before. Moreover, the 2,244 thefts on Black Friday in 2015 were more than the 2,080 average daily thefts for the entire year.

 Year Thanksgiving Day  Black Friday   % Increase
2011  1,526 2,034 33
2012  1,656 2,077 25
2013  1,353 1,750 29
2014  1,384 1,838 33
2015  1,653 2,244 36


NICB reminds drivers this holiday season to make sure your vehicle is locked when unattended. Don’t leave spare keys or FOBS inside. Take a moment and be sure to hide your valuables from view. Even an empty backpack looks appealing to a thief from the outside.

If stopping at several locations to shop, remember to first store your packages in your trunk before leaving one destination for the next. Thieves are known to watch shoppers who place items in their trunks and then head for the stores—that invites trouble.

See the full holiday vehicle theft report here and an infographic here.

2015nicbholidaytheftreport

Insured Metal Theft Claims Take Dramatic Dive

nicbmetaltheft

Metal theft claims were down 29% over the past two years.

In a dramatic drop-off that extends a multi-year trend, insured metal theft claims in 2015 were down 23 percent from 2014 levels and 29 percent over the past two years.

According to a report today from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), in 2013, a total of 13,626 metal theft claims were processed. That number dropped by seven percent to 12,621 in 2014 and took a 23 percent decline in 2015 to 9,692 — a total reduction of 29 percent over the past two years.

During this three-year period, 35,961 insurance claims for the theft of copper, bronze, brass or aluminum were handled — 35,134 of them (98 percent) involving copper. When copper theft claims frequency is compared to the monthly average price of copper, there is a statistically- significant correlation between the two.

While the slowdown in thefts is encouraging, dangerous copper theft incidents continue to occur from Hawaii to Indiana to Massachusetts.

The top five states for metal theft claims over this period were Ohio (4,042), Pennsylvania (2,819), New Jersey (2,585), New York (2,101) and Texas (1,833).

The top five Core-Based Statistical Areas generating the most metal theft claims were New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA (2,136), Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD (1,809), Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI (1,449), Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD (890) and Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA (868).

You can review and download the full report here. Download the dataset here.

While overall public awareness of these kinds of crimes helps to motivate consumers as to the steps they can take to protect themselves and their property, credit also belongs with the various state legislatures and municipalities that have enacted tough laws in recent years as a direct response to copper and other metal thefts. Many of these laws require scrap yards and other buyers of metal to document the transaction and require proof of identity to discourage thieves from trying to cash in.

There is a normal lag between legislation enactment and intended results. The laws passed in recent years may now be bearing fruit. Still, individuals need to do their part to prevent these

kinds of thefts by simply being vigilant in their neighborhoods and business communities. If dwellings remain unoccupied for extended periods of time, they become magnets for unlawful behaviors. Wire stripping is among the activities that are routinely discovered in these locations.

Your best protection is simply paying attention. Talk with your neighbors and ask one that you trust to keep watch on your home if you will be away. As always, you should report suspicious activity to your local law enforcement agency. Unreported crime tends to breed more crime.

More Drivers Losing Their Cars By Leaving Their Keys In Them

keysincarLast year, a vehicle was reported stolen once every 45 seconds in the United States.  And one out of every eight thefts was a freebie for the thief.  There was a theft every six and one-half minutes where the driver left the keys or FOB inside.

It’s a growing problem according to the latest report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).  The 57,096 thefts in 2015 amounted to a 22 percent increase over the previous year. Over the past three years, this kind of theft grew by 31 percent.

Since many people do not admit to leaving their car unlocked with the keys or FOB inside, the actual numbers of thefts with the keys left in vehicles may be considerably higher than the report indicates.

psa-keysincartheftsinfographic2016-finalalt-hq

“Anti-theft technology has had a tremendous impact on reducing thefts over the past 25 years, but if you don’t lock it up, it’s not going to help,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. “Complacency can lead to a huge financial loss and inconvenience for the vehicle owner. Leaving a vehicle unlocked or with the key or FOB inside gives a thief the opportunity to take not only the car, but also any possessions inside. It can also provide access to your personal information if the registration is left in the glove compartment.

“We have reports from our law enforcement partners that car thieves have stolen the car, driven it to the residence and burglarized the home before the owner even knew the vehicle was missing.”

NICB advises drivers to:

  • Lock the vehicle, set the alarm and take all keys or FOBS.
  • Do not leave the garage door opener in the vehicle.
  • Take a picture of your registration on your cell phone and do not leave the registration or other papers with personal information in the vehicle.
  • Never leave a car unlocked and running to warm it up or while stopping for a quick cup of coffee. It only takes a moment for the opportunistic thief to jump inside and drive off.

For the years 2013 through 2015, a total of 147,434 were reported stolen with the keys left in the vehicle. In 2013, there were 43,643 thefts; 46,695 thefts in 2014 and 57,096 in 2015. From 2013 to 2015, the increase was 31 percent.

The top five states that posted the most vehicle thefts with keys during this reporting period were California (22,580), Texas (11,003), Florida (9,952), Ohio (8,623) and Nevada (8,073). The top five core-based statistical areas (CBSA) were Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV (7,815), Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI (4,380), Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA (4,118), Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL, (3,847) and Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD (3,365).

One state—Hawaii—had a perfect record. Not a single report of a vehicle theft with keys.

Looking at day-of-week data, Saturday saw the most thefts with (22,081) followed by Monday (21,851) and Friday (21,652).

The full report can be viewed and downloaded here.  The full dataset is here. Download an infographic here.

Halloween Is Fright Night for Car Thieves

car-thief-halloween

Halloween thefts for four of the past five years were higher than the daily average.

As Halloween approaches, there may be more than ghouls, gremlins and witches canvassing the landscape. How many car thieves will also be prowling the nation’s streets this Halloween disguised as trick-or-treaters as they case neighborhoods for their next target?

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has been analyzing and reporting on vehicle theft activity for over 100 years. While we’ve published hundreds of reports about vehicle theft over the years, this is the first time we have approached the topic to see what effect, if any, Halloween has on vehicle theft.

NICB examined 2011-2015 vehicle theft data contained in the National Crime Information Center’s (NCIC) Stolen Vehicle File to produce daily reported theft totals and then pulled the numbers for October 31—Halloween. The result is a straightforward presentation of theft statistics linked to Halloween, the annual celebration with roots in the Celtic festival of Samhain.

The average daily theft totals for each of the past five years was determined and then compared with the thefts reported on Halloween. Halloween thefts for four of the five years were higher than the daily average. One year, 2012, had fewer thefts.

halloweenthefts2015

So, the question remains. Is there a link between Halloween and vehicle theft? Is the behavior of vehicle thieves affected by this annual celebration? Maybe. But during the last five years the data shows more theft activity on October 31—and that’s no trick, or treat.

 

 

These Boots Weren’t Made For Stealing….

In this edition of Fraud Files we take a look at the theft of over 3,500 boots in an alleged cargo theft in Texas. An insurance claim was paid for over $400,000 for the loss, but in August authorities went undercover and arrested two suspects for trying to sell the stolen items.

Hurricane Matthew Could Bring a Storm of Fraudsters

As Hurricane Matthew begins to approach Florida and the southeastern part of the United States damage and significant flooding is expected. The National Insurance Crime Bureau is warning residents of these areas to be on alert for contractor scams after the storm passes.

Becoming a victim of a natural disaster may be impossible to avoid. You can, however, avoid being victimized by dishonest contractors often found lurking in their wake.

After a natural disaster, salespeople go door to door in damaged neighborhoods, offering cleanup or repair services. While many of these businesses are honest and reputable, others are not. The dishonest ones may pocket the payment without completing the job or use inferior materials and perform shoddy work not up to code.

The NICB recommends these tips before you act on a contractor’s offer for services.

  • Work with only licensed and insured contractors.
  • Get more than one estimate. Don’t be pushed into signing a contract right away.
  • Get everything in writing.
  • Require references, and check them out.
  • Never sign a contract with blanks. Fraudulent contractors may enter unacceptable terms later.
  • Never pay in full.

For more tips you can download our disaster fraud brochure here.

Hail Bombs, Flooding and Stolen Vehicles Highlight NICB’s Fall Newscast

In this edition of NICB News we focus on the devastating floods in Louisiana, a major hailstorm in Colorado and check in at this year’s IASIU conference in Las Vegas.

To view more episodes of NICB News click here.

Fraud Files: Datsun Recovered After 29 Years

For 29 years the car was stashed in a storage facility gathering dust. That was until the storage fees stopped coming in and NICB was asked to investigate. What we discovered was a tale of a stolen vehicle, paid insurance claims and alleged murder.

To view more episodes of Fraud Files click here.