To avoid becoming a statistic, here are six tips that can protect your vehicle from thieves.
1. Use Common Sense
A growing number of drivers are losing cars to thieves after leaving keys inside the vehicle, according to the NICB. In 2015, more than 57,000 cars were stolen after the keys or a fob had been left inside, a report found.
The problem has grown 31 percent over the last three years, although the NICB said the numbers likely are "considerably higher," since not every driver is willing to admit to being irresponsible. This type of auto theft can be avoided by simply by locking up and taking your keys with you.
The top 10 days for car thefts involving keys left inside all occurred in November and December, according to the report. Remember to be careful when shopping or simply warming up the car this holiday season.
2. Request VIN Etching
Etching your vehicle identification number (VIN) into all windows can help keep car thieves away. A VIN identifies a car, and no two numbers are alike. The number typically is located on the lower left side of dashboard. Police use this number to verify whether a vehicle has been stolen.
It's true that a VIN can be altered. In fact, some thieves will change the VIN on a vehicle and replace it with another. That way, they can sell off the vehicle's parts and leave no trace. But the crime is sophisticated, and many thieves will not go through the trouble.
Check with your local police department to see if it offers an etching service. Online kits also are available.
3. Take Extra Precautions With These Vehicles
Drive a Honda? Keep an eye out for thieves. Hondas took the top two spots for car thefts in 2015, according to the NICB.
Honda Accords were the most stolen car, with 52,244 thefts. The Honda Civic came in second, at 49,430.
According to the report, these were the top 10 most stolen vehicles for 2015:
Ford Pickup (full size)
Chevrolet Pickup (full size)
Dodge Pickup (full size)
Older models are the most commonly stolen vehicles. However, late-model cars also appear in the report. So the NICB warns you not to assume the latest anti-theft technology makes your car theft-proof.
4. Hide Your Valuables
Sometimes it's not what you drive, but what you have inside that grabs a thief's attention. Leaving anything of value visible in your car can create a crime of opportunity. An expensive item — whether it's an electronic gadget or a seat full of Christmas gifts — can be what entices a car thief.
A thief might take your car for a joy ride, use the vehicle to commit another crime or sell off the car. Don't stash expensive belongings in your vehicle. That's like dangling candy in front of a kid. At the very least, hide valuables from view until they can be removed.
5. Purchase an Anti-Theft System
Anti-theft devices — including an anti-theft alarm system — can be a car owner's best defense against theft. Many car insurers give discounts if you have these features installed.
Unlike a car alarm, an immobilizing device makes the vehicle inoperable once the thief is inside. Such devices include kill switches that shut off the engine, fuel cutoffs and "smart key" fobs that only start the car if you have it.
You can also install a tracking system that helps police pinpoint your car's location. Although these devices are designed to alert authorities and help them recover your vehicle, they can stop a thief from even trying to break in. Install a protection-warning sticker or product logo somewhere easily identifiable on the car.
There are number of products on the market, so do your research before purchasing one.
6. Park Strategically
Car thieves want to get in and out without being detected. So park somewhere visible, particularly at night. Thieves are discouraged from stealing any car that has a spotlight on it.
Drivers also might want to park near an entrance to a building. At home, parking in a garage is better than parking on the street.
If you do have to park on the street and you are on an incline, turn your wheels toward the curb. Car thieves sometimes try to tow away cars, so make it hard for them.
This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com:
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