July is Vehicle Theft Prevention Month, and with nearly 750,000 cars, trucks and vans now being nicked in the U.S. each year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warns everyone be wary of what has become a $5 billion rolling ripoff. It’s also compiled a list of simple, straightforward tips aimed at helping prevent you and your ride from becoming statistics. With a vehicle theft now occurring once every 45 seconds, NHTSA believes every owner would be well advised to at least consider fitting some type of alarm, immobilizer or recovery system. However, it points out the most fundamental preventative steps cost nothing but can reduce the chances of falling victim to casual would-be thieves by 50 percent.

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For openers, never leave the keys in your vehicle when you aren’t present. And never step away with the engine running as it only takes a few seconds for bad things to happen. Always close the windows and lock the doors anytime you do park, and if valuables absolutely must be left in your car or truck, take a moment to stow them somewhere out of sight. Finally, when parking in your own garage or some other equally-secure location isn’t an option, find a well-lit alternative area.

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Ultimately, if the worst does happen and your vehicle turns up missing, it’s critical to notify the police as quickly as possible to file a stolen vehicle report then follow up within 24 hours to advise your insurance company of the loss. Finally, if you happen to come across your vehicle before the authorities do, don’t attempt to recover it by yourself. Instead call police and your insurance company to advise them where it can be found. 


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