Theft is on the rise, so what can you do to protect yourself?

Posted: 17 February 2023

Over the past twelve months the UK has faced a number of unsettling economic changes. We’ve entered into a recession, experienced national fuel shortages and are in the midst of an energy crisis.

The cost of living has also increased dramatically and police departments are under ever-increasing pressure, so it should come as no surprise that as a consequence theft is on the rise.

In this series we’ll investigate the most common types of theft that we’re seeing and advise on how best to mitigate them. First up is motor theft…

Motor theft

Surprisingly, the number of motor thefts has actually decreased in recent years. In 2021 there were 108,000 motor thefts in England and Wales, compared to 180,000 in 2006. But the estimated cost of these crimes has risen to alarming levels, from £360m in 2006 to an estimated £1.44bn in 2021 1. This is because high value vehicles worth around £100,000 are being targeted by organised criminals, with Range Rovers being one of the most stolen models. Figures from the Home Office tell us that 72% of stolen vehicles today are never recovered 2 and around half of the recovered vehicles are undamaged, showing the impetus is to resell rather than joyride. 3 

Commonly criminals are targeting cars with keyless technology, and ‘key hacking’ or ‘relay theft’ where criminals attack the car’s in-built locking systems by scanning the signal from the key fob and then using it to unlock the car.

However, despite the rise in this type of crime, a staggering 50% of drivers don’t take measures to protect their keys 4. It can take just seconds for thieves to break into a vehicle using this method, and even if they don’t end up taking the car, once they’re in they can take any valuables that are left inside.

Over recent years, catalytic converter theft has also become a major problem for UK motorists. Catalytic converters have a chamber within them that houses various precious metals, and thieves have been targeting these vehicles for the precious metal within the catalytic converter, and cutting it from the exhaust line.

One metal in particular, rhodium has rocketed in price and is around 17 times more valuable than the equivalent weight in gold 5. Catalytic converters are so valuable that some drivers have reported having them stolen in broad daylight from cars that are parked on private driveways.

5 things to consider to help prevent motor theft

1) Use physical security tools. Often overlooked, physical security tools such as steering wheel, pedal, wheel, and catalytic convertor locks are relatively cheap but highly effective ways to protect your vehicles. Whilst only practical for certain vehicles and scenarios, installing bollards (either key operated or remote controlled rising bollards) in parking bays may be a good consideration. Thieves stealing vehicles for resale want to maintain the value and so don’t want it or it’s parts damaged.
2) Switch it off or block the signal. If you own vehicles with keyless technology, consider switching off the keyless feature on the fob to eliminate the risk of the signal being hacked by criminals. You could also block the signal using a fob blocker or faraday pouch, which will prevent the signal from being relayed.
3) Don't leave personal belongings, business equipment or tools in your vehicle. Remove anything valuable and make sure that bags or phones are not in view. This will reduce the likelihood of opportunistic theft. Tool theft is a common and costly problem for tradespeople. If tools or larger equipment can be moved into a property overnight this can reduce the risk, as thefts from vans are far higher than those from properties 6. Theft from vehicles often results in the vehicle being damaged through forcible entry, which results in vehicle down time and negative business impact whilst the vehicle is off the road being repaired.
4) Park safely. Where possible park vehicles in a private garage, or in a highly visible, well lit place, and/or park defensively against a wall or fence to make stealing the catalytic converter more difficult. Installing CCTV will also help to dissuade criminals from targeting your vehicles. If parking in a public place, look for ‘Park Mark’ accredited car parks – these sites have met the requirements of a risk assessment conducted by the police.
5) Install a vehicle tracker. These systems are particularly beneficial for high-value and high-performance vehicles. Category S5 Trackers are the highest specification Thatcham approved vehicle tracking systems available on the market.

The information contained in this press release relates to Allianz Insurance plc. Allianz Insurance plc is one of the largest general insurers in the UK and part of the Allianz Group.

About Allianz Holdings plc

Allianz Holdings plc is the non-regulated holding company which owns the principal insurance operations of Allianz SE in Great Britain.

About Allianz

The Allianz Group is one of the world's leading insurers and asset managers with more than 100 million* private and corporate customers in more than 70 countries. Allianz customers benefit from a broad range of personal and corporate insurance services, ranging from property, life and health insurance to assistance services to credit insurance and global business insurance. Allianz is one of the world’s largest investors, managing 790 billion euros on behalf of its insurance customers. Furthermore, our asset managers PIMCO and Allianz Global Investors manage 1.7 trillion euros of third-party assets. Thanks to our systematic integration of ecological and social criteria in our business processes and investment decisions, we are amongst the leaders in the insurance industry in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. In 2021, over 150,000 employees achieved total revenues of 148.5 billion euros and an operating profit of 13.4 billion euros for the group.

These assessments are, as always, subject to the disclaimer provided below. 

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This document includes forward-looking statements, such as prospects or expectations, that are based on management's current views and assumptions and subject to known and unknown risks and uncertainties. Actual results, performance figures, or events may differ significantly from those expressed or implied in such forward-looking statements. Deviations may arise due to changes in factors including, but not limited to, the following: (i) the general economic and competitive situation in the Allianz Group's core business and core markets, (ii) the performance of financial markets (in particular market volatility, liquidity, and credit events), (iii) the frequency and severity of insured loss events, including those resulting from natural catastrophes, and the development of loss expenses, (iv) mortality and morbidity levels and trends, (v) persistency levels, (vi) particularly in the banking business, the extent of credit defaults, (vii) interest rate levels, (viii) currency exchange rates, most notably the EUR/USD exchange rate, (ix) changes in laws and regulations, including tax regulations, (x) the impact of acquisitions including and related integration issues and reorganization measures, and (xi) the general competitive conditions that, in each individual case, apply at a local, regional, national, and/or global level. Many of these changes can be exacerbated by terrorist activities.

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