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Record high cost of vehicle thefts

The cost of vehicle thefts (including from a vehicle), at £376m, rose by 29pc on 2017, to a record annual high, reports the Association of British Insurers. A new vehicle theft claim is now being made every six minutes. The ABI’s motor claims 2018 report says that the number of claims, at 56,000, rose 12pc compared with 2017.

The cost of all motor claims paid, including property damage, personal injury and theft was over £8.6 billion. This was up by nearly half a billion pounds on 2017 to a record annual high. The average overall claim was £3,082. Some £4.8 billion was paid out in vehicle repairs – repairing the policy-holder’s vehicle or that of a third party and providing a replacement vehicle. The increasing sophistication of vehicles and a weaker pound contributed to dearer vehicle repairs, the trade association says.

Laurenz Gerger, ABI’s motor policy adviser said: “The resurgence in car crime is worrying. The record amounts paid to motorists by their insurers in part reflects the vulnerability of some cars to keyless relay theft. Action by motor manufacturers to tackle this high-tech vulnerability, allied with owners taking some simple, inexpensive precautions will help reverse this unwelcome trend.

“Despite rising vehicle crime, UK motorists continue to get the most from a very competitive motor insurance market, which saw the average premium fall in 2018, the first annual decrease since 2014. But with cost pressures around theft and repairs remaining, implementing the Civil Liability Act is crucial to delivering a fairer compensation system for claimants and reducing high legal costs, to help ensure competitively priced motor insurance.”

Keyless car theft

Passive keyless entry systems, which allow drivers to open and start their cars without removing the key fob from their pocket, can be exploited using a technique called the ‘Relay Attack.’ Usually operating in pairs, one criminal will hold a device up against the car, to capture the signal it sends out to the key. It then ‘boosts’ this signal to another device by the front wall of the house, which relays the signal to the key inside. This fools the car and key into thinking they are within the 2m range of operation, allowing the car to be unlocked and started. Once started the engine will not restart without the key present.

Recent testing by Thatcham Research gave six of the 11 vehicles launched this year a ‘poor’ rating as the keyless entry-start system they have as an option has no security measures to prevent theft by criminals using the so-called ‘Relay Attack’ technique.

The trade body offers three steps to reduce the risk:

Park your car in a well-lit area
Keep car keys well away from external doors or windows
Turn off the signal overnight, or keep the keys in a signal-block pouch.


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