The Home Office of the UK Government released a report on the 12th January 2016. – ‘Reducing Criminal Opportunity – Vehicle Security and Vehicle Crime’. The 139 page report goes into great detail of vehicle criminality over the last few decades from the peak in vehicle crime in the UK in the 1990’S whereas nearly 700,000 vehicles were stolen to current rates (reported) 77,000 for 2014. The report compiled by academics would have us believe Manufacturers, technology and improvements to car security have almost eradicated vehicle theft in the UK.
Really? I beg to differ.
Through OBD Port intrusion, Jammers, key readers and more chop shops than chip shops the UK know we have a very current and real problem, where is the real news on this?
There is a real disconnect here though. Official stats do not highlight the amount of vehicles being stolen through fraud. We have little to no stats on this. The report also doesn’t highlight the cases that have not been reported and the vehicle not marked as stolen. It also doesn’t highlight any cases of scams and deception regarding escrow vehicle sale transactions where criminals aim to lure car purchasers into buying over the internet, transferring funds into supposed escrow holding accounts that will hold you fees until the vehicle is ‘shipped’ to you. Then the funds will be released to the seller is the story the criminals would have you believe. Again many victims fall foul of these scams but no crime figures will ever show this criminal activity. The vehicle will not arrive, the purchasers funds are not being held, the funds are being transferred into mule bank accounts where the criminals can gain access immediately to it. Effectively these accounts are contributory to enabling money laundering of funds in the UK and to outside of it. As yet I know of no law enforcement agency even looking at this area of vehicle related/ enabled crime. From victims of such crimes I have spoken to many times over, no crime will be recorded all victims are offered is to fill out a form with Action Fraud. This is an intelligence gathering web portal for fraud in the UK although with in excess of 20,000 reports provided weekly weekly you will understand that individual cases are not going to be acted upon. Or recorded as a crime.
We are 35 years on from the 80’s, Starsky and Hutch have moved on as well. The threat we face NOW are serious organised criminal gangs, international crime syndicates that have worked out vehicles from one country can be worth the same as or considerably more in others. In the 80’s we had a recovery rate of stolen vehicles in the UK being about 70% when today it is less than 30% with less than half never being seen again. This is where we are at.
Since January 2016 kicked off I have been invited by Interpol to attend a Global Vehicle Crime Conference in Bangkok. Speak at the IAATI UK conference in June. Present and discuss attack methods with the RAC (Royal Automobile Club) and soon to speak on vehicle fraud cases at an FLA (Finance and Leasing Association) function and to their members. These are the primary lenders for Asset finance in the UK.
If the views expressed above are true why is there such activity in the area of vehicle criminality? The views expressed above are simplistic, short sighted and years out of touch with the current reality of vehicle crime in the UK. The true state of affairs is much more straight forward, vehicle theft now comes under the guise of fraud and unless the owners of the vehicles report their own vehicles as stolen, when payment ceases the stats provided to UK Government will always be well short of the mark.
There are approx 8.5million vehicles on finance in the UK and approx 35.9Million vehicles on the roads. By highlighting these figures it clearly shows the control that lenders have on the UK vehicle marketplace, both new and used. Collectively lenders in the UK own approximately one quarter of all vehicles on the road. Many times it may be one of their assets gone AWOL or taken, yet many choose not to register the vehicle as stolen. Why?
I find in this arena many lenders/ finance houses do not wish to discuss how many vehicles cause problems. Or give a percentage regarding toxic debt or vehicles going astray. In this arena it appears a law of averages scenario in that 95% to 99% of your agreement holders will stick to their agreement and it will be honoured and paid in full. I also get that many don’t wish to concentrate time to the 2%/3% toxic book or discuss the methodology as to how the vehicle was lost. Dependant on the type of finance agreement in the UK, some are secured debt, others not, means on occasion vehicles get taken back off innocent purchasers to ‘negate the amount of loss’ sustained to the true owner, the finance company. The one thing I do know is many of the fraudsters are not pursued to the court for the losses. Why? Cost. In order to pursue each case the legal fees can out weight the amount of debt to be recovered. By the time you get into court the monies defrauded are gone and a claim of hardship by the perpetrator will generally lead to charges and repayment being set at the lowest possible amounts. It may appear a cynical view so early in a New Year but several court cases await attending this year and it’s not my vehicles being stolen or stolen through fraud, unreported.
Fraud is now the easiest way to perpetrate vehicle theft/ auto crime. Less chance of detection no crime stat for fraud. No record on any database that this is the perpetrators second, third or fourth time committing the same scam/fraud each time to effectively defraud a lender of £20,000 a time say.
Internet Fraud is probably the second biggest way to perpetrate cash revenues with scam vehicle listings and promises of escrow ‘protection’ on holding funds until in receipt of the vehicle.
Neither of the above is an area IAATI worldwide discuss or tackle regularly and to survive the future it is an area we need to adopt & give some serious concern to. IAATI should also look to adopt a policy of looking at vehicle enabled crime ( Drugs shipping, terrorism, roadblocks, car bombs etc). This is not an area I have personally had any experience with. Although previous IAATI Conferences would give me about 3 or 4 numbers and contacts who may know a more on the subject. Follow the cars you are effectively following the money. Closer collaboration with the IAATI worldwide community is required now more than ever, we hold all the cards to disrupting these global criminal enterprises. My personal view is I have gained such experience, knowledge and temperance through my journey with the IAATI network. For an organisation that is diminishing from 10,000 members in 2002 to less than 4,000 shows the lack of support and funding for the experience we hold. I would offer ‘less is more’ and can sometimes accomplish a lot more than many and this is where we are at also as an organisation.
The World is evolving, so are criminals. The sooner the ‘good guys’ realise greater communication amongst our community being IAATI and our connections the sooner we will bring in new blood and out-perform the criminals when it comes to vehicle criminality and vehicle enabled crime whichever new guise it may present itself as. Unfortunately until we address ourselves to such governance this is the closest many of US are going to get to the criminals of today.
I wrote the above article over a weekend from the office in my house. It has been the only chance this year I have had the peace and quiet to concentrate on pulling it together. You couldn’t make this stuff up but I swear to you the first call I took from a consumer on Monday morning was after the completion of a provenance check. The check did highlight the vehicle in question was marked with ‘Outstanding Finance’ although the seller had informed the potential purchaser it must be a mistake on our database. Oh really? A quick call to the finance company revealed the vehicle was on ‘High Risk’ and they were looking to seize the vehicle back off whomever was offering it for sale. The vehicle would only become ‘High Risk’ when they are not getting paid or haven’t been for a period. Bear in mind this vehicle is NOT recorded as stolen but the seller does not have title to sell it as he doesn’t own it. Surely this IS crime why is it not being recorded?
The screen shots below are of the advert we quickly located with the help of our customer and the potential seller who has just saved himself £5100 by not purchasing the vehicle. It may only be a £5100 vehicle but how many of these deals are going ahead without any report of stolen, no report of fraud and police will generally summarise the events as a ‘civil matter’ and as such the crime and fraud continue to go undetected and no crime report will ever be made. I would further offer we come across situations like this daily more and more, think on.