It's becomingly increasingly common for thieves to target the components of a vehicle rather than the vehicle itself (moohaha, Flickr).

    by: Craig Howie | AOL Autos

    Len Cutter woke one morning earlier this year to find his late-model Honda Civic had some reconstructive work done. The rear window was laying, broken, across the rear seats, although nothing inside the car was taken. As it turns out, the thieves were after his roof rack.

    "They're going to break into my car and steal a roof rack?" he said. "Gimme a break."

    Cutter, of Long Beach, California, fell victim to a common trend in auto thievery: components are now more attractive than the car itself.

    Vehicles are getting harder to steal outright, especially given massive advances in anti-theft technology (current hi-tech keys won't even allow you to turn the engine over unless the right microchip is present, moving hotwiring into the realm of cultural artifact). As a result, car thieves are stealing components such as GPS devices, DVD systems, rims and tires and, indeed, roof racks, rather than the whole vehicle. Yet, as cars become more futuristic, some old trends are returning. Here are the top trends in auto knavery that you need to keep in mind:

    1. Odometer Fraud

    Amid so many technological advances, the full digitization of the dashboard has had an effect on odometers. Odometer rollbacks are "back in a big way," said Christopher Basso of Carfax. "There is widespread use of digital odometers. People are getting software off the internet rather than cracking open the dash and hand-cranking back the odometer. It's harder to detect as there are no physical signs the vehicle has been tampered with."

    Odometer rollbacks increased 57 percent from 2004-2008 (the last year for which data is available), with more than 450,000 cases reported annually. Over the last five years there's been a nearly 60 percent increase in the number of vehicles reported with odometer rollbacks, Basso says. The number of unreported cases -- where a consumer is unaware there is a problem -- is potentially much higher.
    "It is a big and growing problem that continues to plague used-car buyers," said Basso.

    But Frank Scafidi, of the National Insurance Crime Bureau, says rolling back odometers "is not as easy as it used to be."

    "It happens here or there but it is not the predominant cause of auto fraud. Just like making moonshine, you're still going to find people somewhere doing it because they know how to do it. It's just now most people prefer to get their alcohol at a liquor store."

    Have you been the victim of a vehicle break in?

    2. Car Cloning

    Scafidi says one of the newest auto frauds is "car cloning." Cloning occurs when multiple (usually higher-end) cars of the same model are stolen and registered with a VIN number from a legitimate vehicle.

    "The thieves go get a VIN number from a showroom floor and reproduce it three or four times and attach it to the stolen vehicles and then ship them to four or five states," said Scafidi. "The multiple VIN numbers for us are the biggest red flags out there, and we go get 'em."

    The FBI says that car-cloning rings -- often established for decades -- operate in most major cities nationwide. While there is no way to calculate true rates of car cloning, the FBI says it constitutes a "significant percentage" of  vehicle thefts, the value of which totaled $6.4 billion in 2008. The agency recommends always buying your car from a reputable dealership and checking your car's VIN number with your state's licensing agency before you buy.

    Common warning signs that you may have bought a cloned car include receiving unpaid traffic tickets you haven't sustained; a model being sold for much less than buyer's guides indicate it should be; scratches or evidence of tampering on the car's VIN number on the door frame or engine block; or a missing vehicle history report.

    Terri Miller, director of Michigan's Halt Auto Theft program,  says: "We're seeing a lot of cloning. They'll go to a scapyard and buy a clean title and they can then use that number on a vehicle of the same make and model." 
    3. Component theft and resale

    With car stereos -- traditionally the item most stolen from cars --  getting harder to pilfer as a result of electronic security measures, thieves are getting more inventive.

    Nationally, more than 75,000 airbags are stolen every year, according to the FBI. Thefts of GPS and DVD systems are increasing alongside the popularity of the devices among aftermarket buyers. Thefts of xenon headlights are also a growing problem. The advantage (or disadvantage) of component theft: The goods often are difficult to track and usually there's a fairly constant demand for them.

    Miller says component theft is "the biggest thing. As cars are getting harder to steal, they have to steal parts of  them. We're seeing easily fenced items such as tires, rims and GPS units getting stolen."

    She says many items end up being sold online or on the street. In many cases buyers may think they're buying a legitimate product rather than a stolen part. She says that criminal enterprises, like legitimate businesses, mainly work on the basis of supply and demand.

    "Occasionally, when, for example, Ford Taurus airbags are on back order, we'll see an increase in thefts."

    4. Carjackings

    You may think that carjackings had gone the way of spinning rims, but rates are holding steady in Southern California and increasing in Michigan. And there are pockets of America urban areas where the trend never really died down.

    Officer Canales of the Los Angeles Police Department's Rampart Division says carjacking is still "pretty common."

    "We get a few every now and then, usually a gun or knife is involved. It can be anything from high-value to low-value [cars] but we see more Hondas -- Accords and Civics -- and Toyotas."

    Carjackings occur most frequently in urban areas and account for about three percent of all thefts, the Insurance Information Institute reports.

    "A co-worker of my husband last week was carjacked outside  a pizza parlor," Miller said. "He pointed a gun and said, 'You know what I want,' and drove off in his brand-new Mustang.

    "Most carjackings involve a weapon so we always advise motorists to hand over their keys before they become a statistic," Miller says. 

    Where You Live Is As Important As What You Drive

    A motor vehicle is stolen in the United States every 33 seconds, according to the FBI. In 2008, most vehicles -- or 37.8 percent, were stolen in the South, followed by the West at 33.9 percent, the Midwest at 18.3 percent and the Northeast at 10 percent. But thefts are decreasing by about 12 percent year on year for the last five years.

    "Thefts follow technology," said Scafidi. "Smart keys or digital security devices are playing a big part in the reduction."

    Here are the latest car theft statistics from broken down by city and model.

    Rank (by density)/ Metropolitan / Vehicles Stolen

    1. Laredo, TX 1,792
    2. Modesto, CA  3,712
    3. Bakersfield, CA  5,530
    4. Stockton, CA  4,479
    5. Fresno, CA5,875
    6. Yakima, WA1,525
    7. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA 26,374
    8. Visalia-Porterville, CA 2,440
    9. Las Vegas-Paradise, NV 10,706
    10. Albuquerque, NM 4,815
    Source: Auto thefts by cities 2009; National Insurance Crime Bureau

    Rank / Year / Make / Model

    1. 1994 Honda Accord
    2. 1995 Honda Civic
    3. 1989 Toyota Camry
    4. 1997 Ford F-150 Pickup
    5. 2004 Dodge Ram Pickup
    6. 2000 Dodge Caravan
    7. 1996 Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee
    8. 1994 Acura Integra
    9. 1999 Ford Taurus
    10. 2002 Ford Explorer
    Source: Auto theft by model 2008; National Insurance Crime Bureau.

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    1 - 20 of 306 Comments
    jmccord0716 Mar 25, 2011 2:19 AM
    wmathess what are you 12 give me a break braging about your truck like this on a car theft artical. im betting you have a flashy truck with no one to sit in the passenger seat GROW UP!
    Report This
    HBDLD Mar 15, 2011 8:00 AM
    I had a friend that left his truck at a park and ride only to come back, put his truck in gear it didn't move! The thief stole his drive shaft. Lucky for him it was a 4X4 and he used it to get home. He laid in that truck all nite with a AR15 rifle. Lucky for the thief they didn't come back. This fellow was deadly serious. He put razor blades on his hood release and sure enough 3 weeks later bloody bumper but no thief. He was pissed. This X marine would has hung their corpse over the hood like a fresh killed dear.
    Report This
    TMWATSON10 Feb 19, 2011 12:25 AM
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    airscreen5 Jan 23, 2011 12:18 AM
    you are missing a huge market for sales, remember, not everybody wants to steal a car. it seems there are those that want to disfigure, scratch, or in some way damage the looks of a car. invent a camera that will give evidence in court, for the car owner. a hidden camera is essential, and a 360 degree view will assure a photo of the offender. i am ed the idea man, at airscreen5 @aol.com ph-717 343-7837
    Report This
    Onebluebrick Jan 14, 2011 11:26 AM
    frensillij - Good for you. Patricia
    Report This
    arglebargle67678 Jan 07, 2011 9:11 AM
    !!!~wmathess~ !!! its obvious that you are a complete DoucheBag!
    Report This
    phillyj9504 Oct 25, 2010 2:51 PM
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    wmathess Oct 01, 2010 11:15 PM
    When I said "this all makes sense" I meant it in a sarcastic way for those of you who don't pay too much attention. :D!!
    Report This
    wmathess Oct 01, 2010 11:14 PM
    This all makes sense. While I was in a grocery store my truck got broke in to. Luckily, I was at the check out and could see outside to my truck. The guy busted the driver's side window out with a crow bar and unlocked the doors. The alarm went off and I ran out there. He ran off, taking nothing. I chased him down but never hurt him. I would've if I could do it over again! He was arrested and I got my window fixed for free! :P ALSO, I see why people would want to break into my truck. It's a 2010 F-150 Lariat Crew Cab, 5.4L V8 with 4wheel drive and 6-spd automatic transmission. I have it lifted 5 inches with 35s and 18s for the rims. MICKEY THOMPSON! I also have the Flowmaster Cat-Back Pro-Series exhaust kit too. It's SWEET!
    Report This
    ransoktam Sep 30, 2010 9:17 AM
    thats not a new treand Jack ass !
    Report This
    garymfitz Sep 28, 2010 5:25 PM
    What a moronic article. I'll bet the writer also uses: IRA 'Account' ATM "'Machine' etc., as well as VIN "NUMBER" duh
    Report This
    ohyearh Jun 18, 2010 2:26 PM
    My boyfriend thinks the same with me. He is eight years older than me, lol. We met online at agegaplove.com a nice and free place for younger women and older men, or older women and younger men, to interact with each other. Maybe you wanna check out or tell your friends.
    Report This
    goerk21 Jun 17, 2010 1:03 PM
    to ssorian: So I assume you are proud to have your liberty? I don't think Franklin thought thieves were smashing down cultural barriers, do you? Read you history a little closer to see that stealing, or going after other peoples private property ever constituted someone's liberty. Your a confused person.
    Report This
    danobrien17 Jun 16, 2010 9:50 PM
    What is really sad here is the number of American posters to this story unable to spell correctly or write a proper sentence. I am beginning to think Americans really are getting dumber every day.
    Report This
    boowah Jun 12, 2010 4:14 PM
    I liked most the "Booby Trapped Flashlight" story! Just make sure it can't be traced back to you or you'll make a thief wealthy for life. Your best bet is a clean kill on the spot. If you can catch them in the act, a bullet through the head will do, along with a "Throw Down Weapon" so that you can prove self defense. Don't worry about your concience bothering you! These people aren't human, they're animals at best and bad bacteria at worst.
    Report This
    richardfra Jun 12, 2010 2:44 PM
    ssorian, Can you be any more ignorant? How about taking some responsibility for your position in life. And yes it takes work to obtain an education, work at a job and take care of oneself. And these thiefves and liars are just that, thieves and liars. Haven't you heard, liberialism is a mental disorder and I think you have it bad.
    Report This
    angelaammichael Jun 12, 2010 2:35 PM
    I came out one morning to go to work and discovered the driver's door missing from my Honda Civic. The theives took their time and didn't leave so much as a scratch on my car. They also sorted through my CDs and took only the ones they liked, took tools and a small compressor, yet left other items untouched. It was a time-consuming hassel getting the door replaced! And yes, the police dispatcher laughed when I explained my problem. The police didn't come out to take a report. I had to file a police report at the neighborhood substation and then absolutely NOTHING happened, well except my insurance rates went up for filing a claim.
    Report This
    frensillij Jun 12, 2010 2:19 PM
    To shtomtom2007: You need to learn the difference between the possessive adjective, "your" and the contraction of the two words, "you are" (you're). Jack1010
    Report This
    gallerysalon1 Jun 12, 2010 2:12 PM
    To ssorian - Did I read your comment correctly? ....if you stop car theft, you stop liberty? WTF idiot are you? Stop car theft and you'll stop liberty? I've never heard a deeper pile of horse**** in all of my life. I've been the victim of a stolen vehicle, it was never recovered, nor were arrests made. But, by God, they weren't deprived of their liberty that you seem all too proud to bestow upon them. They're crooks, looking to get something offthe backs of hard working, LAW-ABIDING citizens. So, FO with your "stop their liberty" rubbish.
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    me817 Jun 12, 2010 2:07 PM
    Back in the early 1960's a guy rigged up a flashlight with a small explosive and kept it in his glove compartment. Sure enough, some nitwit stole the flashlight along with the radio and some other things. Two days later the nitwit turned on the flashlight and it exploded causing severe injuries to the jerk. The cops couldn't figure out who rigged up the flashlight but the nitwit didn't have all ten fingers anymore as an expensive lesson.
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    1 - 20 of 306 Comments
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    Vehicles are getting harder to steal outright. As a result, car thieves are stealing components rather than the whole vehicle.


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