According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), vehicle thefts continue to increase to near-record highs in 2023. The first half of 2023 saw nearly 500,000 vehicles reported stolen across the nation, an increase of over 2 percent compared to 2022.
The Baltimore Banner is running a series of articles and resources focused the rising auto theft rates across Baltimore and the effect this issue is having on residents, one of which is increased auto insurance premiums. According to an article in the Banner’s series, residents of Baltimore City have some of the highest rates in the state due to issues of vehicle theft. Maryland Auto’s Chief Operations Officer, Dave Pieffer, was quoted in the article, stating, “car thefts, which are very high in Baltimore City and in Maryland, is going to start having an effect on comprehensive rates for everybody across the country.”
Those concerned with vehicle thefts in their area can review the neighborhood search tool from The Baltimore Banner, where you can see the ratio of thefts per ten thousand residents by location.
With this increase in vehicle thefts, it’s essential to know what steps to take if your car is stolen. Being informed and proactive can help minimize the risks of vehicle theft or make a significant difference in dealing with the stressful situation of a stolen car.
What to do if your car is stolen:
File a police report.
Once you confirm that your car is stolen, the first step is to contact your local police. Police departments can vary on this process. You may need to start the report online, over the phone, or in person, depending on the procedure for the specific jurisdiction where the vehicle theft occurred.
Be prepared to give them your car’s information:
- Make, model, and color.
- License plate number and/or VIN.
- Approximate time and the location of the theft.
- Any unique identifiers for the vehicle.
It is important to file a report within the first 24 hours because there is a higher chance of recovery. According to NICB Vehicle Theft Trend Data, passenger vehicles had a 34 percent same-day recovery rate in 2022 when reported in the first 24 hours.
Contact your insurance company.
After you file a police report, keep the report number handy and file a claim with your auto insurance company. Vehicular theft is only covered through comprehensive coverage. For personal items within the car, contact your renters or homeowners’ insurance provider to file a separate claim.
Contact your financing institutions and credit bureau.
If you have a lease or loan on your car, contact your lender to report the theft. Any documents left in your vehicle containing personal information could lead to fraud. To prevent this, set up a temporary fraud alert with one of the major credit bureaus.
Attempt to track your stolen car.
Look up your car on the NICB VINCheck website. It is a free, public lookup service to determine if a vehicle has a record of an insurance theft claim or has been reported as a salvage vehicle by NICB participating insurance companies.
Steps to take after your car is recovered:
When your car is missing, the police are often the first to locate it. They may impound the vehicle and contact you to retrieve it. If you happen to find your car before the police do, it’s important to inform them. Once the vehicle is located, it’s crucial to contact your insurance company promptly.
If your recovered vehicle contains any personal items that you previously reported as stolen to your homeowners or renters’ insurance company, inform them to update your claim. Also check for any unfamiliar items that may have been left in your car.
Additionally, if your vehicle is found while your claim is still in progress, have it inspected for safety. Inspecting the vehicle will ensure no parts have been removed, altered, or damaged that can cause a hazard when driving. Any damages associated with the theft will typically be covered by your comprehensive coverage, with the deductible subtracted from the repair costs.
How to prevent your car from being stolen:
To prevent your car from being stolen, here are some steps you can take:
- Park in safe locations.
- Avoid leaving valuables inside your vehicle.
- Install an alarm system or GPS tracking system or invest in a steering wheel lock.
- Lock your doors and ensure all windows are completely closed.