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A puzzling invitation to auto theft is increasingly sitting in the unoccupied car’s cup holder—the key fob. After many years of car theft declines arising from improved technology, we are now seeing a surge in this unfortunate crime. This spree, worsened perhaps by the pandemic, can be attributed to largely one factor: human carelessness. No hot wire is needed!

Numerous underlying factors lay behind this phenomenon. Some drivers forget a key fob inside the vehicle. Others remember the key fob but leave the car running—allowing the vehicle to be driven off but not able to be restarted later. Many of the victims are the vast number of delivery drivers dropping off food and other items, leaving their cars running and vulnerable. Also, some thieves are even using sophisticated technology to reprogram keyless automobiles.

Key fobs became common a few years ago. Thus, many experts projected that auto thefts would be increasingly rare. Yet, the National Crime Insurance Bureau reports that there are nearly 80,000 vehicle thefts with keys or fobs left inside the vehicle per year—about 210 vehicles every day. This represents a 56 percent increase compared to 2015 statistics. Many of these thefts arose from joyriding teenagers, not sophisticated crime rings. Fortunately, a high percentage of these cars are later found nearby and undamaged.

What is the solution? Obviously, people need to be protective concerning their keys and key fobs. And auto manufacturers are planning to combat this phenomenon, experimenting with facial recognition software and fingerprint readers for the next generation of cars. With this latest technology, the vehicle could only be operated by a special person(s). Will tomorrow’s technology save the day? Maybe but maybe not. We thought that before with the key fob!

Reprinted from Personal Lines Pilot – IRMI Newsletter
Author: Robin K. Olson, CPCU, CRIS, ARM, Senior Research Analyst
International Risk Management Institute, Inc.