For anyone fearing their car might be stolen tonight, here's a sleep-easy statistic: while burglary has risen by 14%, vehicle-related theft, according to the British Crime Survey's latest findings, has dropped by 9%.
That's good then, but here's the nasty twist: since cars are becoming such tough nuts to crack, the AA is warning that 53 household in England and Wales are broken into every day just to obtain your car keys. And online insurers swiftcover.com has unearthed the disturbing truth that, even if headline car-crime figures are falling, the trend for auto theft that involves burglary or assault is rising: in 2008, it stood at 74% of all car thefts, while in 2009 the figure rose to 80% and, last year, surged again - to a staggering 84%.
Short of buying a half-starved insomniac Rottweiler, the issue of key theft is a thumping headache for insurers and car owners alike. But as some sort of perverse reassurance, swiftcover.com has also identified a top-10 trend for sneaky means by which thieves are now procuring your precious metal - often with no need to swipe your fob at all. Here are just three off them.
Some of the latest stunts are ingenious, to say the least, while others are pretty damn obvious. All of these stunts, however, act as an alert to see you don't fall into the same felonious trap. Enjoy, but don't say we didn't warn you...
The stunt: police reported a bizarre spate of thefts of pre-2000 Ford cars in 2010. Inspired by an idea that began in the USA, thieves had been breaking in, disengaging the integral steering lock and dropping the handbrake - then using another car to simply push the target away. Most, apparently, get stripped for parts, and the trend was identified in Britain when a speed camera snapped a gang in the act, pushing two cars bumper-to-bumper. At 40mph.
The foil: depending on the make and model of your car, you could be vulnerable to this kind of theft. To protect yourself, invest in a steering lock that fits onto your steering wheel and makes it extremely difficult to steer effectively.
The stunt: car thieves with an aptitude for shopping in Maplins use radar jammers to block the signal you use when remote-locking your car. They need to lurk pretty close to their target, but if you don't spot them, when you blip your remote fob and walk away from your motor (thinking that it's safely locked) it's been left wide open for attack.
The foil: always check that your car is locked by trying one of the doors before walking away. This method, however, becomes tricky when you have a keyless entry card or fob on you, since the locks automatically open, once you return to the car. Otherwise, don't park near anyone loitering suspiciously.
The stunt: you're selling your car, be it online or through the local rag. Your prospective buyer turns up and seems respectable enough. He even points to his own car in the street and, offering to leave the keys, asks if it's ok to take yours for a brief test. Amazingly, he's never seen again.
The foil: insurers advise you must always accompany prospective buyers on test drives. Scams like these can often be detected if you ask to see a valid passport or photocard driving licence and take a copy. Also, confirm insurance details. If the driver is legit, he or she will happily comply.
“Don’t let your selves be caught out with sneak car thieves” says Greengates Builders Merchants Accrington, Lancashire.