Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Are Your RV Dealership's Keys Reasonably Secured Against Misuse?

New RVs at a dealershipA 10-ton motorhome piloted by an inexperienced RV driver can be plenty dangerous on the highways. Now imagine that motorhome is being driven by somebody who stole it right off your RV dealership's lot. The damage and injuries caused by the thief are going to make for some ugly news headlines.

Who is going to be held responsible for this wild joyride when the dust settles? The thief will certainly get a fair share of the blame. But if you didn't take reasonable measures to secure your keys, headlines that damage your dealership's reputation won't be your only problem.

Protecting your inventory — from camper trailers all the way up to Ferrari-priced Class A motorhomes — is probably already a priority at your dealership. That's why you likely have fences, padlocked gates and maybe even a lockbox for keys. But even those security measures can fall short against determined thieves.

Fences and padlocks didn't stop thieves from driving three RVs worth almost $2 million off a dealership lot late one night in Colorado. Dealership management told a local news station that the thieves had to have had a plan in place. Even if your keys are secure, do you know who has access to them and when they're taken?

Thieves in Arizona got a little bit luckier when they took two motorhomes that had been on display at a local mall. They keys to the RVs were left locked inside by dealership employees. Even basic security practices won't be enough if you make it easy for a thief to access keys and make a clean getaway.

The situation can careen even more out of control if the fleeing criminal is involved in accidents while driving the stolen motorhome. No bystanders were hurt during a high-speed police chase with a stolen RV in California, but the dealer could still have faced civil liability for damage, injuries or death caused by the thief in the stolen RV.

If a motorhome stolen from your dealership is involved in an accident or causes damages, the loss of the asset, insurance deductibles and increased premiums won't be your only concerns. What steps have you taken to make sure your keys don't fall into the wrong hands?

Monday, December 4, 2017

Is Poor Key Security Scaring off Tenants?

Agent giving keys to tenant
Having a list of amazing amenities and well-maintained units is great for attracting new tenants to your multifamily property, but what they see on the surface might not be enough to get them to renew once they've experienced how your property is managed.

If you're not doing enough to keep your tenants and their property safe or to provide them with good, efficient service, they could be looking for somewhere else to live when their lease is over.

Here are a couple tips for making your property a place tenants want to stay.

Keep Tenants and Their Keys Safe

How you treat keys to your units plays a big role in providing both security and good service. If your key security is falling short, you're leaving your tenants vulnerable to potential thefts and violent crimes. Employees misusing keys can also be a problem. For example, a Seattle woman recently caught a property's assistant manager stealing cash from her apartment.

Your property needs a secure and efficient way to manage your keys. Whatever method you choose to keep your keys safe, be sure you have a way of tracking who has keys and when. Handwritten logs are one way to track keys, but an electronic system that automatically records that information based on login credentials would give you a more accurate and easy-to-manage audit trail.

Reduce Your Liability

Poorly maintained or nonexistent key security and access logs can leave you open to lawsuits. It can also send a message to your tenants that you don't care about their safety — or your own liability. In the event that an access incident does happen, such as an employee who used a key without a proper reason or authorization, you need to be able to respond.

By tracking every key and all access to your property, you can answer any concerns about access that a tenant might have and reduce your liability. With a key control system that automatically logs access, you'll have a verifiable audit trail to determine if an employee had the key at the time in question. Having access to this information will also help hold your employees accountable for what they do with keys when they have them.

Manage Packages Better

The winter holidays are here, and your office is probably already inundated with boxes and boxes of online orders piling up in a back room (or worse, in the middle of your leasing office). Your staff already has their normal daily duties, but now they have to keep track of who's been notified about their packages, if a package has been retrieved and who needs to be notified again — all on top of making sure packages don't go to the wrong people or get lost.

Consider using a system that easily tracks packages as soon as your office receives them. You should be able to quickly create a record of the package, scan its information and have the system automatically notify tenants via email or text message. Then the tenants must sign for the package, ensuring the packages go to the right people. this will keep you from having a pile of boxes disrupting your regular office functions during the holiday season.

Managing properties, especially multifamily communities, requires juggling a lot of different components. How do you keep your property running smoothly and your tenants happy?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Combine Cybersecurity With These Four Physical Security Tips

Office worker searching confidential information
In 2017, the ransomware virus WannaCry encrypted more than 200,000 computers across the world. Later that year, the Equifax data breach put 145.5 million Americans’ personal information at risk because an employee failed to apply a security patch. With high-profile incidents such as these, it’s easy to see why cybersecurity spends so much time in the headlines. While cybersecurity is important to protect your organization against a data breach, make sure you don’t overlook physical security — specifically key control. Follow these four tips to increase physical protection for your data.

Secure Keys to Areas Where Sensitive Data Is Stored

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends combining cybersecurity best practices with physical security guidelines, which are essential to protect against insider threats and social engineering. According to the FTC, you should store devices and documents containing personally identifiable information (PII) in a locked file cabinet or room, and use access controls for on-site data centers.

If you keep keys in a desk drawer or on a pegboard, however, that’s not enough to deter someone from gaining unauthorized access to files or devices. Storing keys in a tamper-proof electronic key control system rather than in an easily accessible area reduces your risk of a security breach.

Set up Access Levels

The FTC says to limit cabinet or room key access to employees with a legitimate business need. Employees should return keys as soon as they’re done with them.

Storing keys in an electronic key control system allows you to enforce these guidelines by setting up user profiles for various job functions and access privileges. If someone needs a key, they can only access the system if they’re authorized to do so.

Automate the Audit Trail

To improve employee accountability, it’s best to minimize the level of human involvement in your key control procedures. For example, say that your HR manager is in charge of issuing keys to locked filing cabinets containing confidential employee records. The manager maintains a spreadsheet of who has been issued keys and when, but there are a few problems with this method:

  • Someone has to remember to update the log.
  • It’s easy to manipulate data.
  • If a single person is managing multiple keys, they have to manually review the spreadsheet to determine if all keys have been returned on time.
  • It relies on a person’s trustworthiness and sound judgment. Someone could issue a key to an unauthorized user or use the key themselves for unauthorized purposes.

The benefit of using an electronic key control system is that it will automatically record data for each system transaction. If a key isn’t returned on time, the system will automatically send a text or email alert to the system administrator or sound an alarm. Additionally, the automatic audit trail gives you a reliable source for investigating the incident, and the accuracy of the data is less likely to be called in to question.

Be Cautious When Giving Vendors Keys

If it’s necessary to check out keys to a contractor or vendor, inspect their driver’s license to verify their identity. After checking out the key(s), print a copy of the key receipt and have each party sign. Ensure that the key grants the vendor access only to the areas they need to perform their job. You can also put a time limit on the transaction so you’ll be notified if the vendor has key for longer than they should.

Protecting your data requires a strong focus on cybersecurity, but you can’t afford to neglect security. For more tips, check our post “The Four Layers of Physical Security.”

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

How Key Control Reduces Employee Risk in Prisons

Correctional officer holding keys
With prisons struggling with overcrowding, it may seem reasonable to hire more correctional officers to help maintain the security of your facility. However, due to the stressful and demanding nature of the position, hiring new officers may not solve your security problems. In fact, as a result of understaffing, new employees are less likely to be vetted and trained properly, which can result in human error, unsafe work conditions and even corrupt behavior.

Correctional officers are responsible for controlling facility keys, equipment and weapons, making it crucial that they be held accountable. If these items are lost, misplaced or stolen due to a negligent or stressed-out worker, it could be disastrous for your facility. Consider the case of an Australian prison that saw a prisoner steal a set of unattended keys from a staff area as he was being released. The keys were not discovered missing until the next day and required 28 locks to be changed.

One way to help reduce employee risk in your prison is by investing in a secure method for managing your keys. An electronic key control system can create an automatic record of keys checked out by employees, in addition to alerting an administrator by text message or email when keys are not returned. This promotes accountability among your employees while also keeping you informed of the status of your prison’s keys.

As prisons require a higher level of security than most organizations, limiting key access to approved users should be a priority. A key control system that provides total lockdown security can lock keys in place to prevent users from taking keys they shouldn’t. Limiting access to keys can also help cut down on employees handling more keys than necessary, which in turn can help prevent lost or stolen keys.

Are you confident your prison keys aren't being misused?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Avoid a Campus Nightmare by Taking the Right Safety Measures

Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania
Photo from The Clio
In 2017, Cody Delusio, a former student of Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, used a master key to enter a sorority house, impersonating the sorority's new resident director. The students in the house immediately had suspicions of his intentions and called the campus police. As the officers were on their way, one of the sorority members added Delusio on the social media app Snapchat, which has a new feature that displays your friends' locations. Later in the evening, the police were able to track down the trespasser's location.

Fortunately, Snapchat saved the school's reputation and saved the girls from danger. But what if none of the students had thought to befriend the intruder to track his whereabouts? What if he had other sorority houses' master keys? The story could have ended very differently.

When keys end up in the wrong hands, you jeopardize not only your campus safety but also the reputation and brand image you hold. To uphold the safety and reputation of your campus, you must ensure you've taken reasonable steps to secure your campus. One way to do this is to implement an electronic key control system.

With an electronic key control system, you can:
  • Increase student and resident safety
  • Reduce liability
  • Avoid rekeying costs
  • Prevent a negative reputational image
Want to learn more about how to secure your campus? Check out this blog post.

Monday, October 2, 2017

How Electronic Key Control Helps Combat Dealerships’ Top Challenges

Car keys with money
It’s tough finding the budget to prioritize all your dealership’s challenges, from employee retention to customer satisfaction to compliance. However, even if you do invest money in one of these areas, there is a common denominator that could be worsening each of these challenges and putting your investments on the line. That denominator is key control.

Consider the role key control plays in the following three areas.

Employee Retention

For many employees — especially salespeople and service advisors — time is money. Anything that extends the sales process longer impacts their earning potential. Unfortunately, only 49 percent of business owners are taking advantage of business process automation. Dealership employees are often required to perform manual tasks such as filling out key control logs. To save time, employees tend to take a key without completing the log. If anyone else needs that key, they have to spend time searching for it.

When your employees have to cope with longer processes, they have to deal with more frustrated customers, which can increase the employee’s stress level. These factors alone are enough to cause them to look for another job. A 10-point increase in turnover will cost you around $50,000 annually.   

Electronic key control systems offer features that allow employees to do their jobs more efficiently, including CRM integration, electronic key log updates and work order tracking. These capabilities increase employees’ earning potential and reduce frustration, making them want to stick around longer.

Customer Satisfaction

When you’re constantly onboarding new associates, it’s difficult to prioritize customers. Turnover not only creates a lack of continuity for customers, it also creates a breakdown in processes. New associates are more prone to mistakes like misplacing keys or failing to update a key control log. These errors force other staff members to take longer serving customers, which makes a negative impression on the consumer — especially in the sales department. When customers are buying cars, satisfaction is at its highest within the first 90 minutes on the day of purchase. That number begins declining once time spent goes beyond the 1.5 hour mark. Every minute counts.

Incidentally, after you’ve implemented tools to make employees happier (like CRM integration, automatic key logging, work order tracking and more), they’ll be more motivated to meet customers’ needs. Your customers will also appreciate not having to wait while sales reps and service advisors track down keys.


Retaining employees and keeping customers happy is even more complicated when you throw compliance challenges into the mix. Improper key control methods and inadequate audit trails have significant compliance implications. For example, the FTC Commission’s Safeguards Rule requires you to store records containing sensitive customer information in a place where they can be locked when unattended. File cabinets, desk drawers and offices are also required to be locked securely.

Seventy-one percent of breaches at small to midsize businesses are caused by employees or on-site security weaknesses. That’s why it’s important to know who has access to areas with confidential information. If you do experience a data breach, it will cost you an average of $141 per record. On top of that, 84 percent of buyers won’t return to your dealership.

When the audit trail is consistently updated every time a key is removed or returned, you can rest assured that keys are not being misused, which helps protect your inventory and the areas where restricted information is stored. A system with security alarms helps prevent unauthorized or undetected key usage. If an alarm is triggered, you can act quickly and reduce your chances of a costly physical security breach.

These challenges don’t have to define your dealership. Fight them head on by addressing your key control first.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Do You Need to Improve Your Key Management?

Keys hanging in a box
Unsecured keys are a safety hazard to you, your employees and your customers, especially if these keys grant access to high-security areas, heavy equipment or valuable products. Poorly managed keys are easily stolen and can be used to swipe vehicles from auto dealerships, access school buildings, or put apartment tenants at risk.

Organizations often fall for the false sense of security a key pegboard in a back room or a padlocked box might provide them. These practices won't be enough to stop determined thieves, however. Keeping keys out of the wrong hands boils down to improving key management.

What Is Key Management?

If your company has a lot of keys, key management is an essential tool to help you stay organized and keep track of all of your keys. Not only does a key management system help you monitor the keys themselves, but it also helps you monitor when keys are checked out, who is checking them out and when they are returned.

Why Does Key Management Matter?

Replacing a missing key might seem like a minor expense, but even one missing key can lead to costly problems. If keys are lost, misplaced or stolen, your business could be at risk of theft of more valuable assets like vehicles or electronics.

Compare the concept of managing keys to good password security. If somebody with malicious intent guesses your simple password or finds it written on a piece of paper, they could easily have access to a large amount of personal and private data. They could use that information to buy things in your name, ruin your public image or damage your credit.

Poor password security can lead to expensive consequences. Likewise, weak key management practices can damage your organization's bottom line and reputation.

How Can You Improve Your Key Management?

Though keys are the gatekeepers to your most valuable assets, you, like many businesses, might still rely on low-security methods for keeping those keys safe. Pegboards and lockboxes with manually maintained key access logs are examples of low-security key management that can go awry, especially if you don't maintain accurate logs.

The good news is that there are several options out there that can help you keep your keys and assets secure and react quickly if a key does go missing. It's important for you to select a key management system that secures keys in tamper-proof steel drawers or secure panels and also automatically logs who took keys and when.

Automatic logs eliminate mistakes that could happen with manually maintained logs, giving you an accurate audit trail that will allow you to react quickly to a missing key and respond to potential security breaches.

Keys are an important access point for vehicles, apartments, restricted-access locations and more. By keeping your keys secure, you're helping keep all the associated access points secure as well.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Renters Want Keyless Entry, But Is It Worth the Risks?

Keypad entry
With the growing popularity of the Internet of Things (IoT), renters are looking for homes that reflect their connected lifestyle. Sixty-five percent of baby boomers and 86 percent of millennials would pay more for an apartment with intelligent upgrades such as thermostats, lighting or locks. In fact, the majority of millennial renters (61 percent) look specifically for apartments with electronic access features, believing these capabilities increase security.

With these figures in mind, you might be considering making the jump from traditional locks to smart locks at your property. Before implementing a keyless entry system, however, it is important to weigh the risks against the benefits.

Keyless Entry Systems Are Easy to Hack

Like other IoT devices, smart locks are typically powered by Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or Z-Wave connectivity, making them vulnerable to hackers. According to Berkeley researchers, “Flaws in the design, implementation, and interaction models of existing locks can be exploited by several classes of adversaries, allowing them to learn private information about users and gain unauthorized home access.”

Security researchers at the Def Con conference also pointed out that some locks can even be hacked by someone with minimal tech skills.

If a tenant uses their smartphone to control a smart lock, their safety could be at stake if their phone ends up in the wrong hands. Nearly 30 percent of people use no screen lock on their phones, so a criminal could easily access personal data stored on the device to determine where the phone’s owner lives and then gain access to their unit with the click of a button. Not only does this vulnerability put your tenant at risk, but it increases your property’s liability.

Managing the System Can Be a Full-Time Job

While keyless entry systems might make renters' lives easier, that is not always the case for leasing offices. Smart locks come with the administrative burden of programming fobs, cards, access codes or biometric fingerprints.

The locks need to be reprogrammed not only when a tenant moves in or out, but also if the locks have been compromised in some way, such as by hacking or a tenant losing a fob. If your property uses a keypad system, access codes much be changed frequently regardless of whether or not a breach has been reported. This is because codes can easily be figured out. A common problem is "shoulder surfing,” a social engineering technique where someone obtains the code simply by watching the tenant enter it. Even if the tenant willingly provides the code to someone, it could be overheard or shared without their permission. Depending on the size of the property, managing access rights could be a full-time job.

Even if someone hasn’t seen or overheard the code, criminals can simply examine the keypad for wear and tear. The buttons the tenant presses on a regular basis will show signs of use and thieves can try a few different combinations to discover the right code. To prevent this issue, the codes must be changed regularly, making it harder for tenants to keep track of their codes.

Some locks allow you to use biometric thumbprints instead of codes, but this can create an administrative burden for your employees, since they will have to scan new tenants’ thumbprints and deactivate former tenants’ thumbprints.

You Do Not Eliminate the Need for Key Control

You may be under the impression that key control is no longer necessary when you implement a keyless entry system. Although there are some smart locks that eliminate the use of traditional keys, many still have key slots that allow you to use backup keys in case the smart lock malfunctions. Some users have reported that certain models of smart locks frequently crash, so having the option to use backup keys is critical. If you do use traditional keys as backups, you will need to secure and control access to those keys.

However, regardless of whether or not your system requires a backup key, you will still need a way to secure and track preprogrammed cards or fobs for every unit to grant contractors access to specific apartments. While some properties will program a card or key fob as needed for all the units a contractor needs to access to complete a particular work order, this method requires multiple staff members to have programming privileges. The result is a system with little access restriction,
which is in effect like giving these employees master keys.

As CNET says, “A smart lock doesn’t necessarily equal a safer lock.” Renters might be willing to pay more for keyless entry, but is it worth the added administrative burden, security risks and increased liability? To help you decide, download our whitepaper "Are Smart Locks a Smart Move for Your Multifamily Property?"

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Missing-Key Incidents Highlight Need for Campus Security

Empty classroom Key control is an essential component of a school’s security program. When keys fall into the wrong hands, schools risk not only loss of assets but lives as well. This is clear from several missing-key incidents that have happened in recent years:

  • In Massachusetts, police were investigating a bomb threat at Newburyport High School when they discovered that a 16-year-old (who was not connected to the threat) was carrying a school master key and butterfly knife.
  • A missing set of master keys forced an entire school district in Oregon to rekey 16 schools, costing approximately $50,000.
  • At the University of Central Arkansas, the chief of staff lent his grand master key to a student, who used the key to enter an assistant director’s office and steal exam answers.

When it comes to school security, electronic key control provides two key benefits: restricting access to keys and automatically documenting an audit trail of key usage. To reduce the risk of incidents such as these, follow these four key control tips on your campus.

Store Keys Securely

Office drawers, pegboards and unmonitored lockboxes are all methods for storing your school’s keys. The problem with those methods is that keys could be easily stolen by anyone who gains access to the area in which they are contained. Storing keys in a tamper-proof electronic key management system will greatly reduce the chance for key theft and enhance the overall security of your keys.

Establish Access Levels for Users

Establishing access levels ensures that users can only take keys that are essential to their job functions. Enforce access levels by implementing an electronic key security system that requires users to enter a unique password or scan their fingerprint to retrieve keys. This nonreplicable access information ensures that only authorized users can check out certain keys.

Keep an Accurate Log

One of the pitfalls of using a pegboard or lockbox is that if employees don’t sign out or sign in the keys they use, locating unaccounted-for keys and updating the log becomes an administrative headache and, even worse, a liability for the campus. An electronic key control system provides an automatic verifiable audit trail of key activity so logs are always accurate.

Set up Alerts

With manual key control processes, there’s no way to know if a key hasn’t been returned, or if an unauthorized user attempts to access a key. Text message and email alerts can immediately notify system administrators when keys have not been returned or a user attempts to take a key to which they don’t have access.

By managing keys with an electronic key control system that controls user access, your school can cut down on incidents in which keys are either lost or end up in the hands of unauthorized individuals. If an incident does occur, the audit trail created by an electronic key control system can help police and school officials quickly identify who last checked out a specific key or set of keys.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Could Your Dealership Be on the Hook for Teen Crime?

Teen Driving Speeding Car Through Tunnel
Updated May 11, 2018
Temple University psychology professor Laurence Steinberg compared the teenage brain to a vehicle with a good accelerator but a weak brake — a combination that is bound to lead to a crash. Steinberg meant the comparison figuratively, but a rash of juveniles stealing vehicles from dealerships made the metaphor seem like a prediction. Most of the thefts involved high-speed joyrides resulting in crashes, some of which led to fatalities.

Where Are the Crimes Happening?

In Pinellas, FL, the problem is reaching epidemic proportions. The Tampa Bay Times found that a teen crashes a stolen car every four days in the county. In 2015, police made 499 felony arrests for auto theft — that’s more than in Los Angeles. Most recently, there was a highly publicized incident in which a 14-year-old and two 16-year-olds stole an SUV from a dealership. The teens later died in a fiery crash following a police chase. A fourth teenager who was in the vehicle at the time of the crash was hospitalized.

But while Pinellas County is a hotbed for thefts, that doesn’t mean that other parts of the country are immune. Dealerships in the Chicago area, for example, have been repeatedly targeted by teens
(a problem that is made worse by dealership employees habitually leaving keys in vehicles). Young thieves have also stolen vehicles from Hemet, CA and Brooksville, FL.

Why Does a Thief’s Age Matter?

While some parents have begged for harsher penalties for juveniles who have stolen cars, that is not always the case. Some child advocates are leaning on the “immature teen brain” defense, saying that a person’s brain is not fully developed until around age 25. Before then, juveniles are likely to take more risks and are susceptible to peer pressure. It’s worth noting that in most reported cases of juvenile vehicle theft, two or more teens typically worked together, indicating that peer pressure played a role in the crimes.

According to the immature teen brain argument, juveniles shouldn’t be held fully responsible for their crimes because of their inadequate self-control and reasoning ability. In one notable case in Ontario, Canada, two teens who had been smoking marijuana and drinking stole a vehicle from a local shop that sold and serviced cars. The keys had been left in the car’s ashtray, making it an easy heist. During a joyride, the teens crashed the car, leaving the passenger with a severe brain injury.

The crash led to a trial in which the judge ruled that the dealership had a duty of care to the injured teen. The jury reasoned that the business owner should have anticipated that leaving keys in unlocked cars on the easily accessible premises might tempt minors to go joyriding in the vehicles and injure themselves — especially considering that there was evidence of theft in the area. In the end, the jury assigned 37 percent liability for the teen’s injuries to the business and 10 percent to the teen himself.

Although the decision was later overturned by the Supreme Court, it wasn’t until 12 years after the incident occurred that the business owner was cleared of liability.

How Should You Protect Your Dealership?

In its annual report on vehicle theft, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) said that “technology is working [to reduce theft], but complacency can defeat it.”

You might have cars with advanced security features or a security system at your dealership, but these precautions are all but useless when you make simple mistakes like leaving keys in unlocked vehicles. You can’t afford not to implement proper physical security measures, which includes securing keys. In addition, make sure you have an audit trail of key usage to demonstrate that you’ve taken reasonable efforts to exercise duty of care in protecting your inventory and community.

If the trend of juvenile thefts continues, we could see more dealerships being held liable for a stolen vehicle involved in a fatal crash or used to commit crimes. Don’t let poor security put the brakes on your business.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Multifamily Package Problem Is About to Get Worse

Today, 51 percent of Americans prefer to shop online. While e-commerce is helping consumers save time and money, it’s having the opposite effect for multifamily communities. The more packages leasing offices have to manage, the more they struggle with issues such as lost productivity and liability for lost or stolen packages. According to the National Apartment Association, this problem could get worse for some complexes, due to a new offer from Amazon.
stack of packages
In June, Amazon announced that customers receiving government assistance would be able to sign up for a discounted Prime membership. The subscription service includes unlimited free two-day shipping on more than 50 million items and a 20 percent discount on diapers and wipes. Customers can qualify every 12 months up to four times, so apartments with low-income tenants should prepare for a flood of Prime deliveries over the next several years.

Some communities may choose to stop accepting packages — a decision that won’t sit well with tenants. Others are implementing package tracking software that streamlines the package drop-off process and automatically notifies tenants when a package has been delivered. Not only can properties advertise this capability as an amenity, but  they can reduce liability by cutting down on lost or stolen packages.

To read more about how the increase in online shopping is affecting multifamily complexes, read this post. How will your property respond?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Chicago Dealers Driving up Crime: What All Dealers Need to Know

Car key in ignition
Losing thousands of dollars in inventory is reason enough to do everything in your power to prevent auto theft, but what if your stolen vehicles end up endangering the community?

Police in Chicago are seeing an alarming number of vehicles being stolen from dealerships and rental agencies. Many of the vehicles are then used for illegal activities, including robberies and homicides. The rash of thefts is attributed to dealers leaving keys in vehicles on their lots — so frequently, in fact, that two ward aldermen are proposing an ordinance requiring dealerships to secure keys outside of business hours.

The situation in Chicago is a sobering reminder of why locking up your keys to protect your inventory is critical. Here are three reasons why.

Reckless Driving Endangers Communities

Reckless driving and severe crashes are just two of the ways stolen vehicles can threaten public safety. One recent incident in Libertyville, IL is a prime example. Late one Sunday night, thieves stole five vehicles from a local dealership and were spotted speeding and driving erratically without their lights on. One of the thieves led police on a high-speed chase that reached 115 mph before the stolen vehicle crashed into another car.

You Could Be Liable for Crimes Committed in Your Vehicles

Negligent key control could leave you liable for crimes committed in your stolen vehicles. Fresno My Auto Maxx was sued for negligence after employees repeatedly left keys in vehicles, allowing criminals to easily drive vehicles off the lot. After one of the stolen vehicles was involved in the death of a 55-year-old man, the dealership paid a $950,000 settlement to the victim’s widow. If you’re storing keys in a negligent manner, you’re leaving your dealership vulnerable to this type of lawsuit. Take steps to control your keys before you’re taken to court.

Losses Can’t Always Be Recouped

If your vehicles are stolen and/or damaged, you could be forced to take a loss on the value of the vehicle(s). It’s easy to say, “That’s why I have insurance,” but the truth is, having insurance doesn’t guarantee you’ll recoup all your losses. After paying your insurance deductible and, in some cases, coinsurance penalties, a theft could end up costing you thousands of dollars.

Even if your insurance policy were to reimburse you for 100 percent of damages, some inventory can be difficult, if not impossible, to replace. At one dealership in Missouri, two stolen cars that were totaled by reckless driving were among some of the rarest on the lot and would take months to replace. Time spent on filing claims and fees paid for lawsuits brought against you will negatively impact your bottom line as well.

Simply securing your keys protects not only your inventory but your community. How do you secure your dealership’s keys? Let us know in the comments.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Is Your Dealership Prepared for a Hurricane?

How would your dealership respond if it were affected by a hurricane? Even if your area is not prone to hurricanes, it’s important to come up with a preparedness plan. Here are some steps your dealership should take in order to be ready when a hurricane, or other natural disaster, hits:

Before Disaster Strikes 

First and foremost, your dealership should assign an emergency team that will take charge during a disaster. This group of employees will assist with disaster preparation, such as checking equipment and first aid materials. They should also create a preparedness kit containing emergency supplies for each building of your dealership.

It should contain:

  • A business recovery plan explaining the roles of employees during a disaster
  • Emergency service contacts for utilities, phones, sanitation, etc.
  • Emergency communications equipment
  • Flashlights
  • Cleaning supplies 

If your dealership is running on paper-based processes, have a secure location to store all documents and filing cabinets. Make copies of records and store them in a physically secure facility.

Store your keys in a safe location and make sure they’re organized if you have to shut your doors for a couple days. If you use a key management system, be sure to run a system backup and export or print a map of the system contents in case of a power outage.

Don’t let the unexpected keep your business from succeeding. If you have the right tools and preparation, your dealership can survive a hurricane.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Retain Your Dealership's Best Salespeople With Better Tools

Car salesman showing paperwork to a customer.
According to, median tenure for a car dealership employee has steadily declined since 2011. Many businesses value employee retention, but it is decidedly more critical in the automotive industry. Good salespeople are the backbone of any dealership; their ability to generate leads and sales is an invaluable asset. Unfortunately, retaining top salespeople is not easy. To make sure your dealership is not a victim of this trend, follow these strategies to keep your salespeople right where you need them.

Understand That Time Is Money for Your Salespeople

A study conducted by Autotrader found that customer satisfaction is at its highest within the first 90 minutes on the day of purchase. Customer and employee satisfaction have a correlative relationship; satisfied customers make an employee's day easier and allow them to close more deals. Salespeople want their customers to be happy and make purchases, but unfortunately, this is an uphill battle against inventory, unrealistic demands and, most notably, the clock.

For salespeople, time is money, and anything that can streamline the buying process is a welcome addition to a salesperson's routine. According to above-mentioned Autotrader study, a good portion of a vehicle buyer's in-dealership experience is currently spent on selecting a vehicle for purchase. Electronic key control systems are one way to speed up this process. Salespeople can see if a key is currently checked out and who checked it out, which is invaluable information when trying to locate a desired vehicle. They will spend less time scrambling for keys and look much more organized and competent to the customer, allowing them to sell more vehicles and therefore make more money. Higher paychecks will give them the incentive to continue working for you.

Remain Competitive

Making sure your dealership has the latest tools and technology is one way to make you stand out as a desirable place to work. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, better alternatives are one of the top four reasons employees leave a company. Ensuring that your company is competitive on all fronts is one way to take steps toward upping your retention rates. A study conducted by Harvard Business Review found that satisfaction and environment together was one of the top reasons for an employee to stay with a company. Improving both of these factors results in highly motivated salespeople who want to work for your business.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Secure Your Dealership's Assets Before a Break-In

With the combined inventory on a single lot costing more than the average home, car dealerships are prime targets for theft. When your dealership becomes the victim of a heist attempt, it is crucial to already have the proper measures in place to secure your inventory and prevent losses.

man breaking window of vehicleOne dealership in Waco, TX, recently learned this lesson the hard way after a thief was caught in the act. When police responded to a suspicious vehicle call in a nearby neighborhood, they encountered the thief in a stolen Mustang parked outside the dealership. The cops apprehended the criminal after a car chase and discovered several sets of keys to cars still on the lot, as well as keys to already stolen or missing vehicles.

The thief and some of his associates had broken into the dealership's building, taken keys to several vehicles, and arranged many of them so that they could be easily driven off. Had police not arrived at the scene when they did, the dealership could have lost over $100,000 in inventory.

The more lines of defense you can put between a thief and your vehicles, the better. Securing your keys is a good first step, but simple lockboxes or back-room peg boards won't be enough to stop determined thieves. A more secure solution would be a key and inventory management system that limits access to authorized individuals and automatically provides an audit trail of key checkouts.

You can also make your lot less attractive by strategically parking cars around exits, increasing the difficulty thieves would face in removing cars. Park a string of cars in front of entrances or gates so thieves will have to work harder to drive off the lot in stolen vehicles. The more cars thieves have to move, the more time they'd spend on the lot, increasing the chances of getting caught.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Lockboxes Give Thieves Easy Access to Vehicle Keys

With car buyers demanding a shorter dealership sales process, salespeople don’t have time to search for vehicle keys when prospects want to test drive a car. 

Attaching lockboxes containing vehicle keys to the side of each vehicle appears to be a perfect solution: The key isn’t out in the open on a pegboard, and it’s kept close to the vehicle, eliminating the hassle of matching the key to the vehicle.

The problem is, while this solution is convenient for salespeople, it also makes it easier for thieves to steal vehicles. The thief simply has to smash the lockbox open to remove the key and drive off in the vehicle. 

The Cost of Lockbox Break-ins

There have been several reported cases of lockbox-related thefts, and the costs are steep. One dealership in Florida experienced $130,000 in losses after thieves smashed open lockboxes and used the keys to steal several vehicles. Surveillance footage shows that thieves only had to hit the lockboxes against the ground two or three times before they came apart.
Broken window glass on pavement
Another Florida dealership had its lockboxes targeted twice in the span of a few months. The first time it happened, the thief was caught in the act, and local authorities recommended that the dealership stop using lockboxes. However, the lockboxes remained, and the second time they were targeted, thieves made off with four luxury vehicles. 

In Connecticut, a dealership suffered $200,000 in losses after thieves took advantage of vehicle lockboxes to steal five cars. The dealership wasn't aware the cars had been stolen until they were discovered abandoned around Yonkers and Bronx, NY. 

If you decide that the risks of lockboxes outweigh the convenience, there is a better way.  

A More Secure Alternative to Lockboxes

Storing keys with a vehicle, whether in the ignition or in a lockbox, is an unsafe and unreliable method of key control. To keep keys secure, they must be kept inside the dealership, ideally inside an electronic key control system placed behind locked doors. If a key isn't returned on time, the system can sound an audible alarm and send a text message or email notification, allowing you to immediately track down the key so salespeople won't waste time looking for it when they need it. 

Convenience is important, but it must be balanced with security. Are you doing enough to secure your dealership's assets?