When you park your car and click the remote to lock your doors, you probably don’t give the action a second thought. We place a lot of trust in that plastic remote, and criminals know this. Technology is a great tool to enhance our lives, but it can also be used against us, as anyone who has been the victim of a car jamming incident can attest to.
According to Johan van Greuning, Head of Standard Insurance Limited, authorities and the public have known about car jamming for a few years now, but the problem is increasing.
It is estimated that 40 cases of car jamming and theft happen each week in Sandton alone.
“It has become such a common occurrence that some shopping centres have installed car jamming detection technology, but even with these measures in place people still get caught,” says Mr van Greuning.
Car jammers prevent your car from locking by using a household remote to override your car’s remote, as they both operate on the same frequency. People are often distracted with their cellphones or engaged in conversation when they walk away from their vehicles, so they are unaware that their cars have not locked and their valuables are unprotected. Even items stowed in the boot aren’t safe, because most can be opened from the inside of the car, or they open when the car is unlocked.
While there has been debate about whether insurers should cover the losses, the Ombudsman for Short-Term Insurance has ruled that policyholders are responsible for losses suffered, because the onus is on them to ensure that their cars are locked when they park.
Many insurance company policies specify that they will cover certain stolen items if they are locked in the boot and the car is forcibly broken into. However, if the individual is a victim of car jamming, they are not covered by the majority of the insurers.
“Fortunately, a few quick and simple safety tactics can greatly reduce your odds of becoming a target of car jammers, or at least lessen the consequences if you are targeted,” says Mr van Greuning. He shares the following four tips:
• Be hyper-vigilant when parking your car. Take note of any people in the vicinity of the parking area, and try to park in well-lit, well-populated areas. If you feel uncomfortable, park elsewhere.
• Make sure you watch and hear the locks engage when you press the lock button on your remote, and physically test the doors for good measure.
• Most people carry a laptop or other electronics in their vehicles and criminals are well aware of this fact. Always back up your hard drive, make sure you have a password in place, and never store your banking details in a file that can be found on your device.
• While it is not convenient, it is better to take expensive electronics with you when you leave your car, because if you are being watched by criminals, they may break into the vehicle if they see you loading your gear into the boot.
“You might not be able to cover your valuables in case of car jamming, but you can certainly prevent it from happening. A quick check of your parked vehicle is all it takes to keep your property safe,” Mr van Greuning concludes.