Reasons Why Vehicles are Stolen

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The first half of 2023 follows the historically high 2022 auto theft trends, with Ontario is seeing the greatest number of thefts (+31% YoY), followed by Quebec (+17% YoY), as reported in Équité Association’s First Half of 2023: Auto Theft Trend Report. For the first time, Canadian insurers saw over $1.2 billion in losses due to auto theft alone, which ultimately has cost implications for everyone. According to the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), for organized crime groups, the acquisition, shipment and trade of stolen vehicles is a low-risk way to make illegal profits. Auto theft and insurance fraud are known to finance criminal activities, such as drug trafficking, arms dealing, and international terrorism. Criminals target:

New and luxury vehicles – In Ontario and Quebec a majority of stolen vehicles are new (2019 and newer), because organized crime rings are focusing their efforts on stealing new and luxury vehicles for maximum profit in overseas sales.

Vehicles that have a push button start – Canada’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (adopted in 2007) are outdated and did not consider push button start vehicles in 2007. They have not been updated to the current standards for anti-theft safety devices. Criminals are able to quickly and easily exploit these outdated technologies, which has led to the significant increase in stolen vehicles across Canada. Transport Canada should strengthen the outdated regulations by mandating the inclusion of modern anti-theft devices into every new vehicle.

Vehicles vulnerable to re-programming technology – Access to information and technology to steal vehicles is more readily available than ever before. Some criminals will target makes/models they are already equipped to steal, either through hardware or software hacking. Check Équité Association’s Top 10 Most Stolen Vehicles in Canada list to see the most targeted vehicles.

Vehicles without additional anti-theft protection – Criminals will look for cars which are easy to steal, including cars left running, unlocked or parked outdoors. Additional deterrents for criminals include aftermarket immobilizer devices, steering-wheel locks or visible/audible devices that show thieves the vehicle is protected.

Vehicles for resale or parts – Supply chain issues cause an imbalance in supply and demand, leading to for the resale of stolen vehicles that have been re-VINed (re-VIN: to change the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of a stolen vehicle to conceal the fact the vehicle is stolen). These stolen vehicles are sold to unsuspecting Canadians who think they are buying a legitimate used vehicle.

Équité’s Investigative Services team works hand-in-hand with law enforcement and government agencies to identify and recover stolen vehicles and promote consumer protection. In 2022, Équité investigators, in partnership with Montréal Police, Halifax Regional Police, and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), recovered over 2,100 vehicles valued at more than $91 million.