Thieves Are Using This Trick to See Inside Your Car, Police Say in New Warning

Even with a certain safety measure in place, your vehicle could still be at risk.

Most of us don't give a second thought to the things we leave behind in our car: old receipts, water bottles, sometimes even fast food wrappers. But we do occasionally keep more valuable belongings in our vehicles, and protecting one's car from thieves also means protecting what's inside. You probably know that leaving your doors unlocked could be rolling out the welcome mat for criminals—but even if your car is safely secured, criminals now have a crafty new trick for seeing inside of your vehicle. Read on to find out how thieves are choosing their targets, and what police say you can do to avoid becoming a victim.

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Thieves are looking for all sorts of things inside your car.

car airbag deployed
gokhanilgaz / iStock

Criminals are often looking for valuable items in your vehicle, but that treasure might not always be what you expect. Police in Phillipsburg, New Jersey recently warned drivers about an uptick in airbag theft. According to a Facebook post from the police department, thieves break into the vehicles, cut open steering wheels, and remove airbags. The safety devices are easy to steal and conceal, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), and have become a hot commodity on the black market, thanks in large part to shortages tied back to the pandemic.

Federal legislation requires airbags in "all cars and light trucks" on both sides of the front seats, making them a pretty reliable target—thieves don't need to double check that you've got an airbag installed, especially if your car is a newer model. But if you have a habit of leaving any other belongings in your car, police ask that you think twice—as criminals now have a way to cherry pick the most profitable victims.

There's a new method to look inside your car.

iphone cellphone camera
grinvalds / iStock

Forget x-ray vision–police in Memphis, Tennessee issued a new warning that thieves are now using cellphone cameras to look inside your car, CBS-affiliate WREG reported.

Criminals can now save themselves the hassle of smashing windows by using their phones to see directly into your car, which was described as a "new tool" by officers from the Crump precinct, a police station in Memphis, per WREG. The ability to see through car windows will depend on the make and model of the phone, but when testing the trick with an iPhone camera, reporters from WREG were able to see directly into the back seat of a vehicle. As seen in photos posted by WREG the interior view was clear as day on the iPhone's screen, without even having to snap a photo.

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If you think your tinted windows are foolproof, think again.

tinted car window
deepblue4you / iStock

You might think you're protected if your windows are tinted, but this new "hack" has found a way around dark windows, which are often installed to keep car interiors secure and private. As it turns out, this cellphone method is effective no matter how dark the tint is, Crump police officers claimed during a crime forum in the Cooper-Young neighborhood of Memphis, per WREG.

Police urge you to keep valuables out of your car, or at least out of sight.

purse in car danger of theft
Jens Rother / iStock

The Memphis Police Department (MPD) has an ongoing initiative called "Stow It, Don't Show It Memphis," which encourages residents to keep their valuables hidden. According to a public service announcement (PSA) from the department, "theft from motor vehicles is the number one non-violent crime occurring daily in Memphis," and police have already responded to 3,000 theft from motor vehicle calls so far this year.

As the PSA explains, thieves are looking for valuables, mainly firearms, purses, or other items that can be sold on the street to make money quickly. The MPD suggests a few strategies to keep yourself protected, which may feel like common sense. But we're all guilty of leaving a phone or purse in our cars while running a quick errand or making a pitstop.

It might go without saying, but don't leave valuables in your car, keep your doors locked at all times, and park in well-lit areas. You should also ensure that your car alarm is functioning or "invest in in-car cameras that record upon motion detection." If you do need to leave valuables in your car for some reason, the MPD reiterates the slogan "Stow It, Don't Show It," meaning your items should be tucked away and out of plain sight.

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