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License and theft inspectors offer tips on preventing vehicle theft

Vehicle theft and odometer fraud are big business for criminals in North Carolina, but there are ways for consumers and vehicle owners to help prevent these crimes.

“More than 13,000 vehicles were reported stolen in North Carolina in 2015, including nearly 2,200 in Charlotte metro area,” said Colonel Steve Watkins, director of the License and Theft Bureau in the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles.  “Car thieves act quickly, so it’s vital for owners to understand the importance of securing your vehicle and valuables.”

License and Theft Bureau inspectors recommend that drivers lock their vehicle and remove or hide any valuables from plain sight.  If possible, park the vehicle in a garage or carport instead of a driveway or on the street.  In a public lot, park in a well-lit area.

Drivers should also avoid leaving their vehicle running while pumping gas or visiting an ATM. Open or cracked windows on a parked car could also invite thieves.

According to law enforcement officials attending this week’s National Odometer and Title Fraud Enforcement Association Conference in Charlotte, the most popular make of vehicles reported stolen in North Carolina in 2015 were 1997 Honda Accords and full-size 2004 Ford pickups.  Similar data for 2016 will be announced later this summer.

Odometer fraud is one of the top property crimes in the United States. There are 452,000 cases of odometer fraud reported annually totaling $1.56 billion in losses, either to the consumers or to the insurance companies involved.

“Buyers should compare the mileage on the vehicle’s title and maintenance records with the odometer reading,” Watkins continued. “If the mileage on the title seems hard to read, that could be a red flag.”

Watkins further advised that buyers check the wear and tear on the gas, brake and clutch pedals for consistency with the number of miles on the vehicle. He also recommended obtaining a vehicle history report from the seller or using the car’s VIN to order one on your own.

The DMV License and Theft Bureau works diligently to protect the citizens of North Carolina from any kind of vehicle fraud or theft. For more information, please visit www.ncdot.gov/dmv/licensetheft.

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