Why stolen vehicle checks are important

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released data showing that there were 25,000 more vehicles stolen in 2022 compared to 2021. We look at the tricks and tech thieves are using and provide some tips to prevent stolen vehicle buying.

What does the data show?

The ONS data shows that there was a 24.9% year-on-year increase of stolen vehicles between 2021 and 2022. That translates to 104,435 vehicles stolen in 2021 and 130,389 in 2022. AA Insurance Services have undertaken separate analysis which established that theft of items from vehicles has increased by nearly 10% in 2022 with 212,900 cases.

Money, hand cuffs and a toy car

Why are more vehicles being stolen?

They have continued to command high prices since the pandemic, incentivising thefts. Plus criminals have been more successful at breaking into cars and overcoming modern ‘keyless’ security systems.

Criminal methods and protection measures

These are most common criminal practices that could be used to compromise your vehicle(s).


Criminals often spend time locating vehicles they want to steal in a pre-meditated fashion. Once they find their target vehicle they will work out where it lives and see what security measures are set up nearby before striking.

Protection measures

  • Install cameras or a camera doorbell in the line of sight of the vehicle
  • Fit a steering wheel lock
  • Fit an alarm

Keyless car theft / relay theft

Keyless cars are those which do not need a key to be entered into the ignition lock to start the vehicle. Instead the key just needs to be near the car to unlock it and start it up. Unfortunately thieves are using devices that can tap into and imitate the coded electronic signals between the key and the car to gain access. Modern cars and vans are both susceptible to this type of theft.

Protection measures

  • Put your key in a protective signal blocking bag or box or a faraday bag. All of which can be purchased in stores and online
  • Install a tracking device in your vehicle, or contact the manufacturer to see if a tracking device is installed. If a tracker is activated this will allow the police to locate it
Signal blocker case to prevent stolen vehicle
Signal blocker container

Key cloning

Key cloning often occurs as a result of booking a vehicle into an unscrupulous garage. A device is used to copy the unique transponder code from the key onto a blank key that can be readily purchased online. The real key is given back to the owner and then the car is stolen at a later time or date using the cloned key.

Protection measures

  • Make sure any garages you use come with good ratings online. Or they hold a quality kitemark such as the Trust My Garage scheme

Turbo decoder locks

Turbo decoder locks are readily available online since they are used by locksmiths. They are essentially skeleton keys with spigots that can be adjusted to fit almost any vehicle lock. Unfortunately this tool is used by criminals to break into older vehicles.

Protection measures

  • Install cameras or a camera doorbell in the line of sight of the vehicle
  • Fit a steering wheel lock
  • Fit an alarm

Home key theft

Where criminals use brute force to break into the victim’s property and steal the vehicle key.

Protection measures

  • Ensure the front and side doors of your property are locked
  • Lock your keys in a draw overnight or take them upstairs and put them in a draw or cabinet
  • Install a zoned house alarm and turn on overnight

Protect yourself from buying a stolen car

Once criminals steal vehicles they will attempt to change its identity to mask the fact it is stolen in order to sell it in the UK car market. Many also end up overseas, particularly where they have been stolen by organised crime gangs.

Run a Total Car Check

Total Car Check was the first vehicle check provider to launch a free stolen vehicle check in the UK. But for Total peace of mind make sure you run a full Gold Check. This provides a report of all the important data checks undertaken on the vehicle’s history. Also make sure you view the vehicle in person! Not only to ensure it is suitable and runs well, but to check for any signs of cloning and ringing.


Criminals remove the number plates of a vehicle and replace with plates they have cloned from another. The other vehicle is often the same model and colour, which means any Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) camera checks the police run will not necessarily show any cause for concern without closer inspection.

Protection measure

If you are looking to buy a vehicle make sure you view it in person and use Total Car Check’s free VIN check tool. Our video below explains the steps you should take.


This is where criminals go a stage further by cloning a vehicle and then changing its identity by tampering with the 17 digit Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs). Criminals usually find a VIN from a written off vehicle to apply to the vehicle they have stolen, as a measure to further avoid detection.

Protection measure

  • Check all VINs on the vehicle before you buy as explained in the above video.
  • Look closely at the VIN digits in all three locations on the vehicle and make sure they are cleanly applied.
  • Any defects or inconsistencies should be investigated more closely. A trained vehicle inspection service could be used if you have doubts.

Take a look at our 10 Step Guide to viewing and checking vehicles for further information and be wary of common car buying scams.

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