Westwood, Mass. — Americans are not taking the necessary precautions to protect their vehicles from theft and are putting themselves at risk for identity theft based on what they leave in their cars, trucks and SUVs, according to recent survey by LoJack Corporation and the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). The two authorities on vehicle theft protection kicked off a joint education initiative with this survey and named July (the highest vehicle theft month of the year) as National Vehicle Theft Protection Month.

“LoJack and NICB have joined forces because we believe that many Americans are leaving themselves exposed to today’s professional thieves. Our survey has confirmed the need for consumer education around this issue,” said Ronald V. Waters, president and chief operating officer of LoJack. “Not only have we created a month for consumers to focus on this important matter, but also we are making available valuable theft protection information that can help consumers change some of the negative behaviors we uncovered in our survey.”

The survey showed that many Americans have habits that make them highly vulnerable to both vehicle theft and associated identity theft. Nearly half of Americans leave mail in their vehicle; one quarter has left a wallet or purse; and nearly one third has left bank statements in their car all of which contain personal information that can put people at risk for identity theft.

Further, while people exercise good common sense theft protection measures in some areas such as always locking their vehicle (79 percent) and never leaving spare keys (93 percent)

in the vehicle, many leave themselves open to thieves. Most notably, a full 33 percent admit that they have left their car running to warm it up, cool it down or run a quick errand making their car a fast and easy mark for an opportunistic thief.

Additionally, 47 percent don’t always park in a well-lit area and nearly 40 percent don’t hide valuables. Further, 36 percent never even think about whether their vehicle might be stolen and nearly 40 percent still think it is the teenager out for a joyride (vs. the professional thief) who is behind theft. These findings emphasize a clear need for education about vehicle theft protection.

“While vehicle theft rates vary slightly from year to year, this type of theft is an ongoing problem, with one vehicle stolen every 25.5 seconds,” said Robert M. Bryant, president and chief executive officer of NICB. “The bottom line for vehicle owners is that information is power. All vehicle owners should learn exactly what they need to do to keep their vehicles safe from organized crime rings and protect themselves from the many hidden costs involved in car theft.”

While 75 percent of drivers recognize that there are costs associated with vehicle theft beyond insurance deductibles and the replacement value of the vehicle, according to the survey almost none (1 percent) could identify the full spectrum of those costs. Insurance premium increases, replacing valuables, time spent dealing with police and other related parties, car rental fees, missed work time and costs associated with repairing the vehicle (if it is recovered) are all added to the price tag that a victim of vehicle theft might pay.