Thursday, September 26, 2019

What Your Dealership Needs to Know About Modern Vehicle Theft

Vehicle technology has grown leaps and bounds over the past decade. People can make phone calls hands-free, map out trips, effortlessly maneuver into any parking spot, and avoid blind spot collisions — all with the help of their vehicles.

But despite the increasing sophistication of in-vehicle technology — some even say because of it — vehicle thefts have been on the rise since 2014.

Thieves are becoming savvy in their techniques, exploiting vehicle technology vulnerabilities, careless driver mistakes, and dealership process deficiencies. Not only do these thefts cost billions of dollars a year, they waste resources as police spend time and taxpayer dollars investigating incidents and tracking down stolen vehicles.

Doing your part to reduce theft means familiarizing yourself with thieves’ tactics, protecting your dealership’s inventory, and educating your customers on how to protect their property.

Common Vehicle Theft Tactics  

Just as technology is constantly evolving, so too are thieves’ methods. Deterring car thieves begins with familiarizing yourself with modern vehicle theft techniques.

Key Theft
Victims: Dealerships, private owners

Whereas thieves used to need to hotwire a vehicle to steal it, today it’s often as simple as using the key. Getting their hands on a key isn’t always difficult, thanks to people leaving keys in unlocked cars and dealerships storing keys in vehicle-mounted lockboxes.

Key Swapping
Victims: Dealerships

In what’s called the key-swap scam, potential vehicle buyers will visit a dealership asking to test drive a vehicle. After the salesperson hands over the keys, the supposed buyer covertly pockets them and returns a counterfeit pair to the salesperson. The thief later returns to steal the vehicle using the stolen key.

Relay Theft
Victims: Dealerships, private owners

Keyless entry technology makes it easy for thieves to steal vehicles via relay theft, using cheap relay devices they can easily purchase online.

In this two-person job, one thief stands near the vehicle holding one relay device, with the other thief holding another relay device near where the key fob is kept. The signal from the vehicle’s locking system is transmitted through the devices to the fob, which then returns a response through the transmitters back to the vehicle, tricking the vehicle into thinking the fob is nearby.

One of the crooks will then simply climb into the car and drive off. The whole process takes less than a minute, as shown in a video captured by police in the UK.

Identity Fraud
Victims: Dealerships

Some criminals will use the identities of people with good credit to finance vehicles with zero down. Telltale signs of a fraudulent purchase include:

  • One or two people being dropped off at the dealership
  • Knowing the exact car they want to buy
  • Being out of state
  • Rushing the deal
  • Using their phone frequently to communicate with someone throughout the transaction 
  • Wanting to drive the vehicle off the lot the same day

Thieves using this scheme often visit multiple dealerships, using a different identity at each one.

VIN Switching
Victims: Dealerships, private owners

Also called vehicle identification number (VIN) cloning, VIN switching scams involve doctoring a vehicle’s original VIN to conceal the fact that it’s stolen.

This is no amateur scam. In Edmonton, Canada, police busted a VIN cloning operation in which thieves would steal vehicles, change the VINs, and register them as active vehicles — all in an average of four days. The thieves weren’t picky about how they acquired the vehicles, using stolen key fobs to lift half of the vehicles from private owners and half from dealerships.

While the list above describes the methods you’ll hear most about in the news, it’s by no means comprehensive. Stay alert for new methods as they crop up.

Preventing Crime on Your Lot

Once you’re familiar with how thieves operate, be proactive about protecting your business and your inventory by following a few critical guidelines.

Don’t Neglect Basic Security

Deterring theft begins with basic security measures, such as lighting, fencing and gates, surveillance systems, guards, and alarm systems. While these steps alone won’t thwart professional thieves, they’ll make their jobs more difficult.

Secure Your Keys

Since using the keys is one of the easiest ways for thieves to steal a vehicle, store keys in a locked room, preferably away from outside windows and doors to deter relay theft. For added security, keep keys inside an electronic key control system with locking steel drawers and the capability for text alerts and audible alarms in the event of a potential security breach.

Using a system that requires you to attach keys to a tag with a metal ring will also make it harder for thieves to swap the original key for a counterfeit during a test drive.

Heed Warning Signs 

Look out for potential red flags in a sales transaction. If someone is acting nervous or something doesn’t seem right, go with your gut and take the time to double check the buyer’s information. When dealing with used vehicles, always examine the VIN for signs of tampering and verify that the seller’s name and the VIN are consistent across all vehicle documents.

Collaborate With Third Parties 

Seek guidance from third parties such as your security technology partners, local law enforcement, and insurance company. You’ll be able to stay up to date on the latest theft tactics and get tips for protecting your business.

Thieves are smart, but that doesn’t mean you can’t outsmart them. By staying vigilant and taking precautions, you can make your dealership a less attractive target.

Educating Customers 

Educating your customers on how to protect their vehicles builds trust and shows that you’re willing to serve them even after they drive their vehicle off the lot. In addition, letting them know that you’ve implemented safeguards within your own dealership to protect vehicles in sales and service makes them more likely to feel comfortable bringing their vehicle to your service drive.

Sharing your knowledge and expertise about preventing theft could be as simple as handing the customer a flyer with helpful tips along with their paperwork when they purchase a vehicle or sending an email with a link to a video.

Here are some steps vehicle owners can take to protect their property:

  • Park your vehicle inside a garage when possible. 
  • Always lock your vehicle and never leave keys inside.
  • Avoid leaving keys outside your home (e.g., under a doormat) or just inside the entryway.
  • Store key fobs inside a Faraday pouch (a bag designed to block various types of signals, preventing hacking).
  • Use locks on your steering wheel and/or wheels. 
  • Don’t leave personal items or valuables inside the vehicle. If it’s unavoidable, lock the items in the trunk. 
  • Don’t keep documents with private information inside your vehicle. 

Taking this extra step to inform your customers doesn’t require a lot of expense or effort, but it’ll pay dividends in customer loyalty.

Vehicle thefts might be increasing, but that doesn’t mean your dealership or your customers are helpless to stop them. Don’t be a part of the trend.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Are You Overlooking This Security Gap on Your Campus?

Professor speaks in college lecture hall
If your college or university receives federal funding — which many major public and private universities do — your public safety or campus police department is hopefully putting the finishing touches on your annual security report (ASR) as required by the Clery Act.

ASRs must be published by October 1 of each year and must include campus crime statistics for the previous three calendar years, steps your institution has taken to improve campus safety, and police statements regarding:

  • Crime reporting
  • Campus facility and security and access
  • Law enforcement authority
  • Incidence of alcohol and drug use
  • Prevention of and response to sexual assault, domestic or dating violence, and a stalking

Not only do on-campus crimes affect the personal safety of your students or staff, they can also hit your university's pocketbook since failing to report certain crimes in your ASR can turn into major fines. As of February 2019, the minimum Clery fine is $57,317 per violation, and penalties can reach much higher figures. One state university, for example, was fined $4.5 million for its failure to protect students from sexual abuse.

While we can't help you with adhering to the Clery Act or completing your ASR, we do have some ideas about why having a secure campus is critical to your university's long-term success and how you can improve your security measures to keep your students and staff safe.

What are the consequences of security gaps?

Fines shouldn't be your only concern when it comes to adhering to the Clery Act. After all, the real point is to protect your students. Better security measures discourage crimes, hold employees and staff accountable, prevent internal threats, and promote good security practices on campus.

Of course, fines can be a major headache for your university, but they pale in comparison to the ramifications of a crime. Not only are your students and staff at risk of physical or sexual harm as the result of such crimes, a high level of incidents reflects poorly on your university. A hostile environment discourages students from attending your university, deters organizations from interacting with your institution and holding events on your campus, and indirectly affects the availability of grants and research opportunities.

What should you do to improve campus security?

There are obvious security measures that have likely long been a part of your campus security strategy — door locks, security cameras, patrol officers. But those shouldn't be the only steps you take to prevent crimes. Having a way to hold university staff and outside vendors accountable for their access to various areas on your campus is critical to providing a safe and secure environment.

Every day, your campus probably sees anywhere from hundreds to thousands of people pass through its various doors. Locks are great, but how useful are they if your keys — even electronic access cards or fobs — are poorly managed? How many of your campus keys go missing each year? How much have you spent on rekeying doors because keys given to fired staff members or recently graduated student workers weren't turned in? What happens when a master key goes missing?

That's where key control can make a difference in your campus security strategy.

How can key control close the security gap?

Whether keys are needed for short-term work, such as an outside vendor providing specialized maintenance in a secure building, or for long-term issue to university staff, you need to know exactly who has keys and when they took them.

Consider using an electronic key control system that secures keys and automatically tracks user access, holding employees accountable for what happens to keys they're responsible for. The system should be able to send management alerts when keys aren't returned in a given time, helping you respond quickly to a potential security vulnerability.

You should use your electronic key control system to manage long-term issue keys as well since even one unreturned key could fall through the gaps and be misused by a fired employee — even two years later. Be sure to run routine reports on key activity and perform audits to make sure long-term issue keys are still with the people who are supposed to have them and keys that should be returned are tracked down.

As you prepare your Clery Act ASR, are you confident that your campus already does everything it can to protect its students? Take your security strategy to the next level by better managing your keys.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Cost of Losing Your Dealership's Keys

Updated September 10, 2019

Keys are on ground with car in background
On a normal business day at your dealership, keys pass through dozens of hands. They're passed back and forth between salespeople, sales managers, porters, and service technicians, which can quickly lead to disorganization.

If your dealership is still using pegboards or other manual methods to account for vehicle keys, there’s not an accurate way to determine how long someone has had a key checked out or even who checked it out. When keys go missing, the costs mount quickly.

The Cost of Replacing Keys

Not only is mismanaging keys unproductive and frustrating for employees, it leads to unnecessary expenses. In an informal survey of representatives from seven dealerships and automotive groups of various brands, we found that the cost of replacing keys ranged from $12 to $220, with an average cost of $84. The cost of replacing fobs was anywhere from $49 to $550, with an average cost of $191.

Respondents reported that each month, they lost anywhere from one to 60 keys, with the average being nine and the most common response being one to five. If your dealership lost five sets of keys and fobs at an average total replacement cost of $275, that’s $1,375 a month and $16,500 a year. That’s less the average of nine sets, which would amount to $29,700 annually!

Dealership Key Loss Graphic

The Trickle-Down Effect of Ineffective Key Management

Key replacement costs add up quickly, but that’s not all you have to worry about. Often, lost or unidentified keys results in impatient customers waiting for test drives, affecting the customer experience.

So what can you do to minimize the impact of missing keys? The first step is to make sure you know where your keys are at any given time and ensure only authorized employees can access them. If a key does slip through the cracks, have a system in place to be alerted that the key hasn’t been returned so you can look into the situation further.

It might not seem like a big deal to shell out a couple hundred dollars for a missing set of keys every now and then, but consider the long-term effects. If missing keys are costing you sales, how much is a solution for that problem worth to you?

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Five Tips for Training Millennials on New Technology

Group of multi-ethnic people in board room
Millennials are now the largest segment in the workplace. Since most of the employees you hire are going to be millennials, you’ll need to know how to train them effectively when your business implements new technology systems — especially with customer expectations at an all-time high. Employees who don’t know (or don’t care) what they’re doing will struggle to provide a good experience, and you’ll start to see the ill effects that untrained workers can have on your business.

Here are some tips to help you train millennials effectively on new technologies.

Keep It Flexible

Millennials like to believe they’re in control. They want to be able to do what they want, when they want to do it. More and more, this group of employees is demanding flexibility in the workplace, and that includes training. One way to avoid frustrating them is allowing them multiple time periods to train, with the ability to choose what works best for them. Putting them under time constraints or offering training at inconvenient times make them lose their sense of freedom.

Keeping training flexible is one of the keys to a millennial’s heart. But this recommendation isn’t just for millennials – trainees of all ages can take advantage of flexible training options.

Stay on Topic

Because the average attention span of millennials is 8 seconds, you need to avoid getting off topic. If you go at a slow pace or spend too long on one subject, you could lose their interest. When employees are disinterested, they won’t learn the necessary information to do their jobs. Additionally, sitting in training for too long makes the mind wander, which results in less learning.

Any extra information that isn’t considered essential to use the new technology shouldn’t be included. If any of your employees need extra assistance or further training, don’t make the ones who don’t need help sit there too. Make sure those who need it know who to contact if they have questions, need help troubleshooting an issue, or need additional training. If your tech vendor offers extra support resources, give employees the information they need to utilize these resources.

On the other hand, if you don’t spend enough time on training to make sure trainees have a good grasp on the technology and how it’ll help your business, they might not meet your expectations. Either way, your business will see poor results if you don’t find the sweet spot for training time.

Break It Up

You can help employees stay focused on training by separating trainees by job title. For example, salespeople might not need to be trained along with managers. By separating training sessions, you can ensure that only necessary information is being shared with each trainee.

Another way to keep boredom from setting in is allowing for frequent breaks. Sitting in one spot all day learning the ins and outs of a new technology isn’t considered fun (most of the time). Using short breaks lets your trainees stretch their legs, check their phones, or eat a snack.

Never Stop Training

Just because your employees are done with official training doesn’t mean they should stop learning. Millennials are more likely to be disengaged with their work – the Gallup Organization reports only 29 percent say they’re engaged with their work – so it’s important to keep their jobs interesting and fresh.

You can check if your technology providers offer training, and if they do, encourage your employees to take advantage of it. Your vendor may have written tutorials, phone training, or prerecorded videos to choose from. For your convenience, some companies offer on-site training at your facility or consultations via webcam. Helping your employees learn more about the technology and systems they work with will not only improve their job performance but also fight apathy.

Give Valuable Feedback

One of the most important parts of life is communication. It doesn’t matter how old people are — if they don’t communicate, they won’t get along. Millennials are no exception. Setting clear expectations and goals is key.

Make sure they understand what’s being asked of them, and return later with feedback on how they performed. Be honest with them, and they’ll respect you and appreciate any advice you give them. This gives them the opportunity to learn and improve, which is one of their biggest goals.

Millennials are taking over the workforce, and the sooner you know how to manage them, the sooner your business will start reaping the benefits of the valuable skills they bring to the table. If trained correctly, they can unlock the full potential of themselves and your systems.