Auto thefts in Michigan are in a five-year decline, but other forms of vehicle-related crime are on the rise, according to Help Eliminate Auto Thefts (H.E.A.T.), a statewide insurance industry-funded theft prevention program and confidential tip line.
Some of the unconventional auto theft-related crimes on the rise in Michigan include:
Insurance Fraud: Vehicles are reported “stolen” to obtain insurance compensation or false documentation is provided to obtain insurance, titles and registrations for stolen cars. Not only are these criminal actions, they also result in increased insurance rates for all Michigan drivers. Over 25,000 vehicles were reported stolen in Michigan in 2011.
Online Fraud: Thieves are turning to online purchasing sites like Craigslist.com and local sites like cars4detroit.com as easy outlets for selling or trading stolen, cloned, or re-tagged vehicles and stolen auto parts.
Vehicle Re-Tagging/Cloning: Thieves obtain legitimate VIN numbers from cars matching the year, make, model and color of a stolen vehicle and duplicate the identifying digits, allowing them to re-sell the car with fake paperwork without it being flagged as stolen.
Component Theft: Catalytic converter thefts are increasing once again, due to high demand for the precious metals inside the converters. Other vehicle parts, including tires, rims, airbags and navigation systems, remain hot items for thieves and are being stolen and sold to crooked dealers and repair shops.
Carjacking: Thieves need your keys to steal newer vehicles, so they are getting bolder about approaching their victims. Most carjackings involve weapons, so owners are advised to give up their car and quickly exit the scene. It is also important to stay alert for carjackers at the gas station and retail store parking lots.
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