When Cold Weather Strikes, So Can Thieves

As cold weather approaches, many drivers will want to warm up their vehicles before hitting the road. It may seem like good idea to start the car, blast the heat, and wait inside until it’s time to leave, but it can also be a dangerous one. In fact, in some states and municipalities, warming up a vehicle and leaving it unattended is illegal. 

Puffing Graphic

During the winter, thieves are on the lookout for vehicles that are “puffing”. "Puffing" refers to the practice of leaving a vehicle running while unattended. As the vehicle’s exhaust runs, it will actually emit puffs of steam when warming up, making it an easy target. With no one around to stop them, and the key already in the ignition, criminals only need to hop in and drive off. Unfortunately, insurance may not cover the cost of the theft because it was the owner that left the vehicle running. 

Thankfully, there is a solution. Remote starters allow car owners to start the engine while keeping the vehicle safely locked up, without the presence of a key or fob, are usually considered a safe alternative. 

The National Insurance Crime Bureau warns consumers about the dangers of leaving a vehicle unlocked and not taking the fob or key with them. 

As we head into the new year, we encourage drivers to contact insurers or agents to make sure they have the appropriate coverage in case the unthinkable happens. 

Tips to Prevent Auto Theft This Winter:

  • Lock the vehicle, set the alarm, and take all keys or fobs.  
  • Do not leave the garage door opener in the vehicle.  
  • Take a picture of your registration on your cell phone. Do not leave the registration or other papers with personal information in the vehicle.  
  • Never leave a car unlocked and running to warm it up, or while stopping for a quick cup of coffee. It only takes a moment for an opportunistic thief to jump inside and drive off.

Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800.TEL.NICB (800.835.6422) or submitting a form on our website.

About the National Insurance Crime Bureau: Headquartered in Oak Brook, Ill., the NICB is the nation's leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to combatting and preventing insurance crime through Intelligence, Analytics, and Operations; Education and Crime Prevention; and Strategy, Policy, and Advocacy. The NICB is supported by more than 1,200 property-casualty insurers, self-insureds, rental car, vehicle finance, and auto auctions. To learn more, visit www.nicb.org.