Use of Technology to Prevent Fraud

Hi-spec cars recovered after technology tracks organised car thieves. IMS urges credit hire companies to focus on technology to prevent fraud.   

Telematics tech company IMS (Insurance & Mobility Solutions), part of CHO associate member Trak Global Group, has saved London-based prestige car hire company City Inter Rent nearly £300,000 through the recovery of three stolen vehicles.

IMS director Dave Turnock said City Inter Rent snatched back two high-value Range Rovers and a top-of-the-range Mercedes from car thieves within hours of receiving alerts from the devices that had been installed just months earlier.

The vehicles were found packed in containers at Ilford, Essex, ready to be shipped abroad. Turnock said that, prior to shipping, the thieves normally park stolen vehicles in a residential area for 48 hours to see if the vehicles are tracked before exporting them, usually to Africa, the Middle East or Eastern Europe.

Turnock said that the thieves, who were likely to be professional criminals stealing vehicles to order, had managed to disable the manufacturer’s on-board vehicle tracking services, but missed the dedicated telematics tracking devices. The vehicles had their wiring ripped out and had suffered body damage. There were no arrests made.

He said: “Recent RAC research shows a 56% rise in vehicle theft over the past four years, and cars with keyless functionality are a particular target. Thieves are finding new technologies to override these systems and steal such vehicles, especially high value cars.

He added: “You need to work fast once an alert is triggered. We have a very short window of opportunity to work with our repatriation partners and law enforcement agencies to recover the vehicles before they are exported and, as is often the case, broken for parts.”

Ian Highland, Operations Director of City Inter Rent, said “Due to the nature of our business, we carry a high excess on our fleet insurance policy, and should we have suffered a total loss of the three vehicles in question, the financial outlay and resulting negative impact on the cost of future premiums would have been a real blow.”

Dave said that there are important lessons to be learned for credit hire companies that operate fleets, where fraud, especially for prestige vehicles, has been an ongoing problem. “CHCs are fraud savvy, and some members have sophisticated anti-fraud units who demonstrate an enviable track record of prevention. There has been an ongoing debate about law enforcement giving this form a crime a higher priority, and given how stretched police resources are, we believe there should be more cooperation between CHCs, insurers and their respective anti-fraud bodies to share information and bring about a collective effort to clamp down on this type of crime.”

He went on: “Technology is also changing, which in some instances is assisting criminals, for example keyless vehicle technology, but our tracker devices illustrate that there are solutions to keep up with the thieves. We are happy to speak to CHO Members about steps they can take to keep their vehicle assets safe.” 

152,541 vehicles were stolen in 2018-19 compared with 97,609 in 2014-15, according to police data.  Turnock said that while opportunistic theft was a factor behind the increase, particularly with economic pressures in the wake of COVID-19, he said organised criminals are making big money from shipping stolen cars to other parts of the world, or breaking them up for parts.

He said: “The proceeds are often used to fund more serious forms of crime, such as drug dealing or people trafficking. We urge law enforcement to make vehicle crime more of a priority, with stiff prison sentences for criminals, and we will continue to deploy technology to keep up with the criminals.

Please do bear in mind that CHO does not assume responsibility for any specific member company. Our updates are for information and guidance purposes only. It is the case that each and every member company must always take their own independent advice in respect of the specific circumstances that apply to their company.