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National Insurance Crime Bureau

Warning, Warming-Up Your Vehicle Could Cost You

It’s called “puffing” and it marks your car for theft

DES PLAINES, Ill., Jan. 8, 2020 — There’s no doubt the first few minutes in your vehicle before the heat kicks-in can be unpleasant in the wintertime. In some cases, drivers might be tempted to warm up their vehicles before hitting the road. That’s called “puffing.” But did you know that leaving your running, unlocked vehicle could cost you? 

Related Resource: Infographic

Puffing Tips - in release

More and more states and municipalities are passing laws banning “puffing,” making it illegal to leave a vehicle running and unlocked—even in your driveway.

Remote starters that allow you 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. For example, if you start your vehicle and scrape off snow or ice from your windshield, you should be just fine. However, if you leave only for a minute, it could cost you a hefty fine in some areas of the nation.

Last May, NICB published a report on vehicle thefts with keys or fobs left with the vehicle, and the numbers are eye-popping. The FBI reported that there was a total of 747,841 vehicle thefts in the United States in 2018.  NICB found that in 2018 a total of 81,911 vehicles were stolen with the keys or fobs left in them. That’s 11% of the national total, and the real number could be much higher.

“We always warn consumers about the dangers of leaving a vehicle unlocked and not taking the fob or key with them, but leaving the car running with a key or fob in the vehicle is a prime target for an opportunistic thief,” said NICB Chief Operating Officer Jim Schweitzer.

Thousands of vehicles are stolen each year with the keys left inside. Many of those cars are not insured against theft, and the owner is footing the bill for a new vehicle. As we begin the new year, we encourage you to contact your insurer or agent to make sure you have the appropriate coverage in case the unthinkable happens. 

Most importantly, we can’t stress enough the importance of locking your car, and taking the fob or keys with you. 

NICB advises drivers to:

  • 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, and 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 the opportunistic thief to jump inside and drive off.

Media Contact

If you have a question, want further information on the NICB, or to discuss insurance fraud or vehicle crime, please contact:

Tully Lehman
Public Affairs Manager
925.758.0744
tlehman@nicb.org

Brooke Kelley
Vice President of Communications
847.544.7085
bkelley@nicb.org

Or, if you are a reporter and have a request or question, please complete the Media Request Form.

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 Des Plaines, Ill., the NICB is the nation's leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to preventing, detecting and defeating insurance fraud and vehicle theft through data analytics, investigations, learning and development, government affairs and public affairs. The NICB is supported by more than 1,400 property and casualty insurance companies and self-insured organizations. NICB member companies wrote over $525 billion in insurance premiums in 2019, or more than 82% of the nation's property-casualty insurance. That includes more than 95% ($241 billion) of the nation's personal auto insurance. To learn more visit www.nicb.org.