Auto theft in Western Canada is an accelerating risk exposure and that’s no more evident than in Edmonton, Alberta, where a chop shop with over $2 million in stolen car parts was recently busted.

In Edmonton, auto thefts jumped 41% during 2016 with 4,865 vehicles stolen in Alberta’s capital – but while the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is conducting an educational campaign advising Edmontonians not to leave keys in their car or leave car doors unlocked, a common practice in the city, there’s another, more sinister element at play.

Dan Service, director of investigative services, Western & Pacific, for IBC, said sophisticated car thieves with international networks and chop shop connections are causing the dramatic spike.

“What we have in Alberta is an increase in stolen, unrecovered vehicles,” Service said. “With an over 100% increase from 2012-2016 in Alberta, what it clearly indicates is there is a group or groups that have moved into the province that are now stealing these vehicles and doing a number of things with them.”

The chop shop closed down by police in Edmonton last week, described by Service as “probably the biggest in Alberta’s history”, is believed to take apart stolen cars and put them back together using different parts for resale.Car thieves are also shipping stolen vehicles overseas, according to Service, which points to an international syndicated black market.

Service advised brokers to be aware of both the perceived safety of new cars and potential fraud by new owners.

“Brokers should know vehicles are absolutely available for theft when they are push button start vehicles,” he said. “There was a contention for a period of time that push button start vehicles, as long as you had both keys, could not be stolen, but that’s not the case at all. There’s a variety of ways that key can be cloned, defeated or duplicated.”

Getting a claim for theft within the first two years of ownership should also cause brokers to scrutinize the situation, according to Service.

“The Endorsement 43 that allows for anytime in the next two years that you get a full replacement value – with that endorsement there is a material benefit to the claimant giving up his vehicle to a criminal enterprise or burning it and burying it himself in those first two years,” Service said.

Stolen vehicles also mean higher insurance premiums and greater overall risk.

“If you put in a claim and say ‘my vehicle has been stolen’ you can pretty much rest assured that the next time you get an insurance premium for the year, it’s going to be higher. And even if yours doesn’t go up, because it got stolen in Alberta, mine does. It’s a primary impact on the claimant and a secondary impact on everyone else,” Service said.

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