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How to Steal a Car in 2020

Toby Graham /

Imagine you wanted to steal a car. How would you go about doing it? 

Let’s take a look at your options.

1. There’s the old-fashioned way. Find a car parked along an empty street, break the window or jimmy the lock, hot-wire the vehicle, and peel out.

2. Then there’s the more advanced route—this one requires some tech knowledge. You’ll need to surreptitiously gain entry by hacking the car’s on-board diagnostics port or spoofing the owner’s key fob signal.

3. Or—and follow me carefully here—you could walk into a dealership, pretend to be someone else, sign a bunch of forms, and drive away in a new BMW.

More and more car thieves are opting for that third approach. Rather than learning how to code or risking attention by breaking into vehicles out in the open, criminals are using identity theft. And rather than going after cars on the street, they’re targeting dealers. They’re waltzing into F&I offices, presenting bogus ID and loan documents, and defrauding dealers out of cars before any employee has a chance to catch on.

Here’s how Jason Keegan, vice president and general manager of fraud and protection at FICO, describes it in a recent WardsAuto article:

“With modern anti-theft devices making it harder to steal vehicles, criminals have turned their attention to using automotive-finance fraud as a way to illegally obtain cars.

Using stolen or synthetic (made-up) identities, they take out loans and drive away from a car dealership in a ‘purchased’ vehicle. Only when loan payments aren’t paid does fraud become apparent.

The need for identity proofing for automotive finance providers is not limited to fraud prevention. Financers must also comply with applicable anti-money laundering regulations, which include doing customer due diligence.

Organizations that cannot prove they took the necessary steps to adequately check the identity of loan seekers risk fines, increased regulatory scrutiny and damage to their reputation.”

As Keegan explains, the new rash of identity-fraud-fueled car theft puts businesses in a difficult position. Hiring on-site security experts or training salespeople to spot fake IDs or isn’t always tenable. Subjecting customers to rigorous identification processes, meanwhile, could cause them to walk away. It’s an ideal environment for thieves.

Read “Why ID Thieves Like Car Dealerships.”

So, what’s a dealer to do? You don’t have to overhaul your workforce or make your customers undergo extensive ID checks. The same solution you use to automate manual processes, manage safety, ensure compliance can help you minimize risk. Ask us about preventing fraud at your dealership.

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