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Vehicle theft prevention

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(ARA) -- As the most mobile society in the world, Americans have paid the price in auto theft. A vehicle is stolen every 20 seconds in this country, at a cost of $8 billion per year. Virtually everyone is susceptible, as the age of your car and its location appear to have little bearing on who will be victimized. In fact, the 10 most stolen vehicles in the country are at least four years old and are snatched from personal driveways, neighborhood streets and shopping mall and city parking lots. But you can lower your risk of losing your car -- or at least ease the sting -- if you put the following advice into practice:

Before You Leave Home

Make sure you have a record of all pertinent information regarding your vehicle stored safely at home, that includes the make, model, year, a copy of the registration, Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), license plate number, insurance company and policy number. Take a picture of your car periodically, including any specially installed equipment; this will help you to prove current condition/worth in the event that it is stolen. Also save the receipts for all major work done on the car.

The easier your car and its parts are to identify, the better. Have the VIN etched on windows and door panels, radios and other expensive accessories. Drop your business card under floor mats and down through window slots so they rest hidden between the door panels. This makes it easier to identify the car as yours should the police recover it.

Invest in an anti-theft device. They run the gamut in price, so find one that fits your budget. Remember, the theory here is that something is better than nothing. You can choose among alarms, steering wheel and ignition locks, vehicle tracking systems, keyless entries, locking gas caps and fuel "kill" switches.

When Parking

It should go without saying, but never leave a running vehicle unattended. Always lock your car, and take your keys with you -- no matter how quickly you'll return! Close the windows completely (including the sunroof), engage the emergency break and turn your wheels sharply to the curb. This will make it harder for potential thieves to tow your car.

Park in well-lit areas where vehicle and foot traffic will deter theft, and don't leave a key hidden on the vehicle. Carry any spares in your purse or wallet. Likewise, don't leave your registration and/or title in the glove box as this makes it easier for a thief to sell your car.

Place any valuables -- packages, cell phones, radios, purses, briefcases, laptop computers -- out of sight (locked in the trunk is best) or take them with you.

If you're leaving your car for an extended period of time, remove the rotor from the distributor and lock it in the trunk.

If You Should Become an Unfortunate Victim

Contact the police immediately, offering information about the location, the time you left your vehicle and when you returned, and any identifying marks on the car, such as VIN etching on the windows, doors and accessories. Have your vehicle registration handy, as well as the make, model, year, color and license plate number of the car.

Likewise, contact your insurance agent immediately.

Courtesy of Article Resource Association,

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