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Calgary Police Service

Auto theft and fraud

There are steps you can take to prevent your vehicle and its belongings from being stolen

Most vehicle crime is a crime of opportunity. Thieves look for these crimes of opportunity and they can happen anywhere, even if you believe you are in a safe neighbourhood. These crimes often happen quickly. Never leave your children or pets alone in a vehicle.

Take steps to protect your vehicle and its belongings.

Reasons why motor vehicles are stolen

  1. Thieves steal vehicles to get from one destination to another and then abandon the vehicle.
  2. Thieves use the vehicle in other crimes such as break and enters and robberies.
  3. Thieves will alter the VIN of the stolen vehicle and then either drive the vehicle themselves or sell the vehicle to an unsuspecting consumer.
  4. Thieves may have a similar vehicle they want to upgrade or repair damaged parts. They may also try and sell the vehicle parts on Internet sites.

How to prevent auto theft

  • Lock all doors and close all windows and sunroofs, even if you are parked inside a garage.
  • If you park your vehicle in a garage, make sure the overhead garage door and pedestrian door are locked.
  • Do not leave a spare key hidden inside the vehicle.
  • Do not leave your vehicle running while unattended with the key in the ignition.
  • Consider installing an after-market car alarm if your vehicle is not already equipped with one.
  • Be aware of where you park. If possible, park on a street with a lot of vehicular and pedestrian traffic. If parking in a lot, look for a lot that:
    • has security cameras
    • has on-site security
    • requires a pass to enter and exit or have a person working at an entrance/exit booth
    • is well-lit

How to prevent theft from vehicles

  • Lock up your vehicle, including doors, window and sunroofs
  • Never leave valuables or money in a vehicle, including:
    • loose change
    • cell phones
    • personal computers or tablets
    • jewelry
    • cameras
    • clothing
    • sunglasses
    • cigarettes and lighters
    • shopping packages
  • Never leave garage door openers in or around your vehicle
  • Do not leave identity or personal documents (such as vehicle registration or driver’s licences) in a vehicle.
    • Digital copies of insurance are now accepted. Consider keeping a digital copy rather than a paper copy.

Buying and selling pre-owned vehicles

Calgarians need to beware when buying and selling vehicles online. Fake bank drafts, accompanied by fake identification, are being used to purchase vehicles from legitimate sellers. Once the transaction is complete, and the seller has released the vehicle to a buyer, it is later determined the bank draft was illegitimate, and the seller has no way to reclaim the vehicle.

These fraudulently obtained vehicles are then being sold to new buyers. In many cases, the vehicle identification number (VIN) is altered to allow the registration of what would appear to be a legitimate sale. The offenders walk away with the funds, while the buyer is left with an illegitimate purchase that can end up being seized by authorities.

Sellers are advised to:

  • accompany buyers to a legitimate bank and observe a bank draft being ordered 
  • have the bank draft in their possession prior to releasing the vehicle to the buyer.

Buyers are advised to:

  • inquire about the vehicle’s history of ownership
  • inspect the seller’s registration documentation carefully.
  • Search reported stolen vehicles by entering the VIN of the vehicle in question into the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC)

Be wary of:

  • vehicles that has been re-registered within six months
  • documentation with a name not corresponding to the ID of the seller, or a seller who refuses to provide picture ID
  • a seller who is unable to give clear details about the vehicle’s history of ownership that can be verified, such as a dealership/salesman/previous owner that you can contact.
  • when conducting background research on a vehicle, you find the vehicle has been previously registered out-of-province or in the United States.
  • a price that is below fair market value of the vehicle. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

There is no single indicator that will identify a criminal purchaser or seller, but the more red flags that are present, the more cautious a consumer should be.

Report a crime

If you suspect your vehicle has been stolen, confirm it was stolen before contacting police. In many cases, a caller has forgotten where they parked the vehicle or the vehicle was towed because it was illegally parked or involved in a civil dispute. The public can call the municipal impound lot at 403-537-7111 to see if the vehicle is there.

If the vehicle was legitimately stolen, call 403-266-1234 to report it and obtain a case number. Call 9-1-1 if you see your vehicle being stolen and be prepared to provide the make, model, colour and licence plate number.

If you have been a victim of theft from your vehicle, submit an online report or call the police non-emergency line at 403-266-1234.

Calgary Police Service Auto Theft Team

The Calgary Police Service Auto Theft Team investigates incidents where motor vehicles are stolen for use in other crimes, for transportation, or for profit (i.e. cloning, shipping overseas and chop shops).

CALL YOUR LOCAL POLICE

In an emergency always call 911

Non-emergency 403-266-1234