Cybercrimes like online harassment and identity theft are high on many people's lists of concern these days. But while you're protecting yourself from online forms of crime, it's important to remember to continue protecting yourself from the more traditional, physical forms of crime, like theft. In fact, some crimes, like car theft, have gotten a technological boost recently that makes it easier for a thief to steal your keys without you even realizing that they're gone. Take a look at some stealthy ways that car thieves can get into your car, and find out how you can protect yourself.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
A good thief only needs a few seconds to steal your car keys. That's because they don't even need to actually take the keys away with them anymore. All that they need is enough time to snap a decent cell phone picture of the key that they want. If they turn off the flash on the camera, they could do it right in front of you without you realizing it.
There are two ways that a thief can use a picture of your car keys to get into your car. The low-tech way involves using a number that's etched onto some ignition keys. The number is intended to let a locksmith know what kind of key it is. With this number, a thief can walk into a locksmith shop with a sob story about losing their keys, and have a new key made that will start your car. The best way to avoid this is to take the key to a locksmith yourself and have the number removed. Write it down and keep it in a secure location for your own records.
The second method of theft is harder to avoid. New cyber locksmiths make it possible to get a copy of a key made, just from a picture of a key uploaded to an app. Current computer technology allows the program to extract the dimensions of the key from a photograph. Then the locksmith can use that information to make a new key and mail it to the person requesting the key. Sure, there are some security measures in place – for example, you may be required to photograph both sides of the key to prove you have enough access to turn it over. But that would still be remarkably easy for, say, a valet, or anyone who knows where your keys are at work or notices that you left them on the table at the diner when your order number was called.
Your best bet is to make sure your keys stay in your possession – and out of sight – at all times. Keep them in your pocket or with your wallet, and guard them like you would cash or credit cards.
Parking Lot Security Means More Than Locking Your Doors
Another sneaky way that a thief can get into a locked car without getting near the keys involves copying down the VIN number on the dashboard. The number is easily visible through the windshield of the car, and with that number, a thief can walk into a dealership claiming to have lost their key, and have a new one made as a courtesy. As simply as that, they have full access to your car. This tactic works especially well for newer (and more valuable) cars.
By law in most areas, you're not supposed to cover the VIN number while the car is in moderation. But your biggest threat risk for this kind of theft comes while your car is locked, so keep a piece of paper handy that you can slide in front of the VIN number while the car is sitting in a parking lot or garage, and just remove it when you come back and start the car up. It's a quick and easy way to prevent VIN number theft.
If you have reason to believe that your keys have been compromised, it may be worth paying a locksmith to change your locks entirely, just for the peace of mind. For more information about the cost of this service, contact a locksmith in your area. Once you know your keys are safe, guard them, along with your VIN number, as carefully as you would your Social Security Number or ATM pin. After all, your keys are the physical "password" to your car; they deserve to be as well protected as any other password.