Motor vehicle theft or grand theft auto is the criminal act of stealing or attempting to take any motor vehicle. Nationwide in the US in 2012, there were an estimated 721,053 motor vehicle thefts, or approximately 229.7 motor vehicles stolen for every 100,000 inhabitants. Property losses due to motor vehicle theft in 2012 were estimated at $4.3 billion.
Some methods used by criminals to steal motor vehicles are:
Theft of an unattended vehicle without a key: The removal of a parked vehicle either by breaking and entry, followed by hotwiring or other tampering methods to start the vehicle, or else towing. In London, the police say that 50% of the annual 20,000 car thefts are now from high tech OBD (Onboard Diagnostic Port) key cloning kits (available online) and bypass immobilizer simulators.
Opportunistic theft: The removal of a vehicle that the owner or operator has left unattended with the keys visibly present, sometimes idling. Alternatively, some cars offered for sale are stolen during a 'test drive'. A 'test drive' may also provide a potential thief with insight into where the vehicle keys are stored, so that the thief may return later to steal the vehicle.
Carjacking: Refers to the taking of a vehicle by force or threat of force from its owner or operator. In most places, this is the most serious form of vehicle theft, since assault also occurs and the method of taking over the vehicle is essentially a robbery, a more serious form of theft. In some carjackings, the operators and passengers are forced from the vehicle while the thief drives it away him/herself, while in other incidents, the operator and/or passenger(s) are forced to remain in the vehicle as hostages. Some less common carjackings result in the operator being forced to drive the assailant in accordance with the assailant's demands.
Fraudulent theft: Illegal acquisition of a vehicle from a seller through fraudulent transfer of funds that the seller will ultimately not receive (such as by identity theft or the use of a counterfeitcashier's check), or through the use of a loan obtained under false pretenses. Many vehicles stolen via fraud are resold quickly thereafter. Using this approach, the thief can quietly evade detection and continue stealing vehicles in different jurisdictions. Car rental and Car dealership companies are also defrauded by car thieves into renting, selling, financing, or leasing them cars with fake identification, checks, and credit cards. This is a common practice in areas near borders which tracking devices do nothing because jurisdiction cannot be applied into a foreign country to recover a lost vehicle.