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Auto Theft Facts

What is auto theft?

Auto theft is the unlawful act of stealing or attempting to steal a motor vehicle, including but not limited to: automobiles, trucks, buses, motorcycles and scooters. In Virginia, thieves steal more than 9,000 motor vehicles each year, and stolen vehicles and parts are valued at more than $80 million annually.

How can I identify auto theft?

If you are in immediate danger, always dial 911. If you have suspicions about a vehicle chop shop operation or are skeptical about a new or used vehicle, contact the Help Eliminate Auto Theft (HEAT) program with more information. If your tip leads to an arrest you could earn up to $25,000.

Chop shops are where stolen vehicles are stripped of parts. Some signs of chop shops are salvage yards that disassemble new or undamaged cars, sell vehicle parts at below-market prices or have hard-to-find vehicle parts at very low prices.

When purchasing a new or used vehicle, deals that seem too good to be true usually are. Some red flags include late-model cars with fresh paint jobs, sellers without manufacturer-made keys and prices far below similar models.

How does auto theft affect me?

Victims of auto theft are not limited to owners of stolen vehicles. According to the FBI’s 2017 Uniform Crime Report (source):There were an estimated 777,139 thefts of motor vehicles nationwideMore than $6 billion was lost nationwide due to auto theftThe average dollar loss per stolen vehicle was $7,708

High insurance claim totals result in higher insurance rates for you because most insurance companies base their rates on overall loss. Also, some insurance providers do use the risk of auto theft as a factor when calculating your insurance policy rate and may provide discounts for anti-theft protection devices.

What should I do if my car is stolen?

If you return to your vehicle and it isn’t where you left it, you have a big problem. Make sure that your vehicle has not been impounded, towed or repossessed for any violations. If you confirm that your vehicle is stolen, first call the police to file a police report. Provide them with vehicle information including your VIN number and license plates, location and time of disappearance. Law enforcement can use license plate readers and provide patrolling officers with your make and model to keep an eye out for your vehicle. Next, call your car insurance company and let them know that your car has been stolen and the police are working on locating it. This is an important step because your insurance provider can help protect you in case your car is used to cause harm or damage after theft. Remember, auto theft crimes are sometimes linked to other offenses, such as burglaries, robberies and homicides.