Be Wary: ‘Frost-Jacking’ can invalidate insurance claims

As winter claws across the United Kingdom and temperatures plummet, vehicles need extra time to warm up or de-ice on frosty mornings.

Almost half (47%) of all UK motorists leave their cars unattended in the morning with the engine running to warm it up, according to a recent survey. Opportunistic thieves capitalise on this widespread winter habit by prowling neighbourhoods and stealing unattended, running vehicles in a practice known as ‘frost-jacking’.

Even worse than your car being stolen is the fact that insurers can refuse claims of theft due to frost-jacking. If your car or one in your care is stolen while unattended and running with the keys in the ignition, it is unlikely your insurer will cover the theft.

Whether you are driving a company or personal vehicle, leaving it unattended with the engine running is extending an open invitation to car thieves.

How It Happens

Frost-jacking thefts can be random, but many are planned. Criminals tend to target specific makes and models, and often organise themselves into inconspicuous groups. They stalk vehicles parked overnight, waiting for their owners to start them and leave them unattended. A few minutes—even just seconds—is enough time for a thief to frost-jack your vehicle.

Frost-jacking increases as temperatures drop and winter weather grows worse. Whenever a winter storm descends on the United Kingdom, thieves exploit the frigid weather and new-fallen snow by planning a spate of frost-jacking thefts. Be extra vigilant the first day after a snowfall or chilly winter storm, when thieves are most likely to strike.

How to Stop It

A thief needs only a small window of opportunity to frost-jack your personal or work vehicle. Because frost-jacking can happen so quickly, preparation and vigilance are paramount. Heed the following advice to steer clear of frost-jacking thieves:

  • Carry your car keys wherever you go—never leave them in the ignition, even if you leave for a only a few seconds.
  • Sit inside your car while it de-ices—never let it de-ice unattended.
  • Lock and secure your vehicle when exiting it.
  • Keep valuables locked inside the boot and out of sight, or bring them with you.
  • Store important car documents and a spare key in your home or office—leaving them inside the car makes it easier for thieves to quickly sell your vehicle.
  • Park in busy, well-lit areas near closed-circuit television cameras.
  • Use a garage to store your car.

By staying vigilant and following these simple precautions, you can make sure your car and possessions stay warm and safe.