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More car thieves make their own keys

Computer-chipped keys are no guarantee of safety anymore, if they ever were.

By MSN Money Partner Aug 20, 2012 4:15PM

This post comes from Des Toups at partner site on MSN MoneyBashing in the steering column and hot-wiring the ignition is so uncivilized. The modern thief simply makes a key.


Image: A young man admiring a new car © i love images/Cultura/Getty ImagesThe National Insurance Crime Bureau notes the new trend in its annual look at most-stolen vehicles, released today. To no one's surprise, half the "Hot Wheels" list  consists of old Japanese sedans that are hard to kill and easy to steal. The most stolen, again, is the 1994 Honda Accord.


The other half of the list is newer American iron with computer-chipped keys. That technology is no guarantee of safety anymore, if it ever was.


"Today's vehicle thieves are typically professional criminals who have figured out how to get the key code for a specific vehicle, have a replacement key made, and steal the vehicle within a matter of days," says NICB president and CEO Joe Wehrle. "We are aware of nearly 300 thefts that took place in the first three months of this year in which we believe replacement keys using illegally obtained key codes were used to steal the vehicle." (Post continues below.)

Criminals can lift a vehicle identification number and forge the paperwork needed to obtain a new key code from a dealer or locksmith, the NICB says, or they can work with an inside source.


While thieves' tactics are changing, the overall trend is positive. Preliminary data from FBI reports for 2011 indicate a 3.3% drop in thefts from 2010, the lowest number since 1967. For 2011, the most-stolen vehicles in the nation were:

  1. 1994 Honda Accord.
  2. 1998 Honda Civic.
  3. 2006 Ford Pickup (full size).
  4. 1991 Toyota Camry.
  5. 2000 Dodge Caravan.
  6. 1994 Acura Integra.
  7. 1999 Chevrolet Pickup (full size).
  8. 2004 Dodge Pickup (full size).
  9. 2002 Ford Explorer.
  10. 1994 Nissan Sentra.

As a whole, the Hot Wheels list highlights a crucial question for owners of aging cars and trucks: When is dropping comprehensive coverage -- the part of the policy that replaces your stolen car -- a smart move rather than a dumb one?

Nearly two-thirds of cars older than 10 years are not insured against theft, according to insurance analyst Quality Planning. And even among cars as new as 2009, according to data gathered from customers, one in five drivers skips comprehensive coverage. (See "Is it time to drop collision and comprehensive?")


"Comprehensive is usually the cheapest part of a car owner's policy," says consumer analyst Penny Gusner. "Some insurance companies will insist you buy collision coverage as well, but not all. It pays to ask, especially since comprehensive covers other things such as fires and vandalism."


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