Are you a fan of social media, in particular WhatsApp and do you own a nice car? Well then you might like to read on.
Car thieves are using WhatsApp groups to plan and carry out their car theft adding to the growing car crime rate we are seeing here in the UK at the moment.
The criminals are becoming more sophisticated in the way that they operate thanks in part to all the technology that is installed in the majority of new cars these days and in particular the vulnerability of ‘keyless’ systems in vehicles which appear to be pretty easy to workaround if you have the right equipment such as key signal amplifiers and decoders.
Criminals are drawing up shopping lists of vehicle makes and models so cars can be literally stolen to order according to AX Automotive, who provide intelligent vehicle protection and management technologies for the automotive and insurance industries.
Encrypted social media platforms help thieves in ways that have never been possible before.
Home Office figures are alarming, showing that the number of vehicles stolen in Britain has almost doubled in the last five years. In the financial year 2017/18, nearly 112,000 cars were taken illegally, which is a substantial increase from the 75,308 stolen in 2013/14.
Neil Thomas, who is Director of Investigative Services at AX, exposes the favoured tactics used by car criminals today. This includes the theft of the vehicle and removal of any tracker devices, through to dismantling the vehicles for parts and the sophisticated networks through which stolen cars are exported.
“The highly organised criminal networks are constantly looking for more secure ways to carry on their ‘businesses’ online and use social media with encrypted messaging capabilities or even online games to covertly communicate with each other” says Thomas.
“The sheer volume of thefts is practically a car theft epidemic and is enabling criminals to purchase costly technology which then fuels even more car crime.”
“The thieves who take the initial risk get the cash payment, then the buyer, who now has a tracker-free car can then take their time to strip it, clone it or export it. This is where the profit is, especially in terms of the parts which can amount to much more than the complete vehicle.”
“We’ve been highly successful in recovering vehicles for our clients. However, it is usually only possible if they can be traced and this requires specific technology as well as the instinct of experienced professionals.”
What you find today is that the criminals or in some cases, gangs, use social media to agree preferred targets, pricing and buyer information before they prepare false number plates from similar cars, so they are ready to clone them.
The five-step process car thieves use, according to Neil Thomas are as follows. Firstly, thieves will research demand for specific vehicle makes and models with criminal associates to find a buyer. Secondly, they will identify ways to get around factory fitted security and alarm systems, using the vast pool of information available online or from ‘fiends’ who work in the industry. Thirdly, they will locate the vehicle or vehicles they want to steal and bypass any security systems fitted. Next, they will dispose of the vehicle via their criminal network and get paid. Then they will repeat the whole process again.
Thomas advises motorists who want to try to protect themselves against car theft by saying: “We always suggest parking in well-lit areas and would now recommend old-fashioned steering wheel locks, as well as considering covert devices to protect their vehicle.”
Interestingly AX has been successful in facilitating numerous motor fraud prosecutions in the UK and have recovered stolen vehicles from across the UK, Europe and Africa. For more information on motor fraud and the services AX offer, please visit: www.ax-uk.com/innovation
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a sister publication of Our Man On The Ground Travel and Lifestyle.