Money blog: HSBC, Nationwide and Virgin Money hit by glitches; how to stop your car being stolen - or even 'cannibalised' (2024)

By Emily Mee, news reporter

A car was stolen roughly every eight minutes in the UK last year, according to DVLA figures.

Some 64,087 vehicles were reported stolen - an increase of 5% on the previous year.

While car thefts are on the rise, reports have also highlighted a growing trend of "car cannibalism" - when criminals rip parts off cars to order.

Bonnets, bumpers and headlights are among the parts often nicked by thieves.

It might sound like a familiar refrain at this point, but consumer rights expert Scott Dixon says the cost of living crisis is largely to blame.

Scott, who runs The Complaints Resolver, told us the costs of spare parts and insurance have "rocketed" post-COVID - driving opportunists to turn to crime.

He also pointed to a scarcity of decent second-hand cars on the market currently, saying people are "holding onto their cars for longer because they can't afford to change them".

How can you protect your car?

Scott says there are numerous ways you can prevent your car from becoming a target - and many of them are cheap and simple.

Get your keys recoded

If you're buying second hand, getting your keys recoded can give you additional security.

Scott says it's possible the person you bought from could have copies of the keys, allowing them to steal your car or break in.

Fit a tracking device

This should be fitted professionally, and while it won't stop your vehicle from being stolen, it will increase the chances of police being able to track it down and return it.

You should be aware, though, that you'll need to pay a fairly costly annual subscription fee.

Secure your number plate

Some thieves will take number plates so they can steal petrol from forecourts - and Scott says some are now doing this to escape ULEZ fines.

He recommends getting anti-theft screws to secure your number plate.

Keep your car tidy

Handbags, phone leads, sat-nav holders and paperwork can all attract the attention of opportunist car thieves.

Scott says many people are "too careless and complacent" with this - and it's completely free to fix.

Fit a steering or handbrake lock

You can get these on Amazon for less than £20 each - and because they're visible, they can also act as a deterrent.

A pedal box, which encases the pedals in a highly visible metal box, is another option.

A good wheel clamp - Scott recommends this one- can be bought on Amazon for about £30.

Another visible deterrent is a sticker to say the vehicle is alarmed or has a tracker fitted.

Think about where you park

Thieves are more likely to target quiet and dimly lit areas, as well as quiet side streets, Scott says.

If you can, try to park in a well-lit and busy area - preferably with CCTV.

Install cameras

You could keep your dashcam recording through the night (which could capture anyone walking in front of the car) and put up signs stating you have cameras around.

Fit a car alarm or immobiliser

Although most modern cars have these fitted, older cars often don't.

Plus, having a professionally fitted alarm or immobiliser could lower your insurance premium.

Etch your car windows

You can buy a car window etching kit for less than £15, including warning stickers to show the identification number is traceable.

If you have your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) etched onto the doorframe, windows and steering wheel, it can deter thieves from stealing the vehicle or its parts as it will be harder to sell stolen parts if they're personalised.

Window tinting

Of course, you'll only be able to do this to a certain extent as the law states the front windscreen has to let in at least 75% of light through. For front side windows, you need 70%.

But there are no rules around the rear windscreen or rear passenger windows, and having a tint can deter criminals from looking into the car.

Take steps to prevent relay theft

An increasingly popular way to steal cars is through relay theft - when criminals use devices to relay signals from the car key to the car.

One person will get near enough to the key inside the house to pick up the signal, while a second person will hold another device next to the vehicle.

All keyless cars are vulnerable to relay theft - but in particular, Audi, BMW, Ford, Hyundai, Land Rover, Mercedes and Volkswagen cars are the most popular targets.

You can help prevent it by keeping your keys in a "Faraday pouch" - which has a lining preventing the keys inside from receiving or transmitting radio frequency signals.

A pack of two is available online for roughly £8.

Another option is to use a metal container, as the relay device cannot pass through metal.

You should also avoid storing your keys near doors or windows.

Money blog: HSBC, Nationwide and Virgin Money hit by glitches; how to stop your car being stolen - or even 'cannibalised' (2024)
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