What You Should Know About Airbag Theft and Fraud

You’ve heard thieves stealing hubcaps, gas caps, gas, and of course entire cars. Did you know that thieves also target airbags? A new one can net $50 to $200 on the robust black market for car gear. Bags in commercial vehicles like vans and trucks are especially desirable.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau, or NCIB, offers these tips for keeping your fleet, as well as your drivers, safe.

Tip #1. Keep adequate commercial auto insurance and commercial crime insurance.

Investing in premiums is much cheaper than buying new trucks, cars, vans and other vehicles. Or paying hospital bills if an accident happens. Keep your coverage up to date. Check with your agent if you make changes to the number and type of vehicles you use.

Tip #2. First contact the police, then your insurance agent.

As soon as a vehicle, or parts of it like the airbag, is stolen, contact the police and fill out a report. Your second call should be to your insurance agent. He can help you with paperwork and make recommendations for replacement.

Tip #3. Make sure a new and genuine airbag is installed.

Sad to say, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported that counterfeit bags have been sold to auto repair shops all over the country via internet sites. They are defective, will probably not work if the car crashes, and might even explode, causing a fire. When some deploy, they even sent out shrapnel in the form of plastic and metal debris. A counterfeit bag is more dangerous than no bag at all.

  • First, take your car to a reputable auto shop, one that is ASE-certified.
  • Second, inspect the auto shop’s invoice to make sure it was bought from a dealer, manufacturer or certified recycler.
  • Third, inspect the bag before it is installed in the car, checking that it is in a sealed container, direct from the manufacturer.

Tip #4. Make sure the SRS light flashes when you turn the ignition.

This indicates that the airbag system has been properly activated. If there is no light, it means there is a problem with the airbag and it might not deploy in an accident.

Tip #5. Check used vehicles for genuine airbags.

Did you know you can tell whether or not an airbag has been replaced in a vehicle? There is a trim cover that sits over the steering column. The color of both the cover and your other trim interior should be the same. If it isn’t, you know right away that the airbag that came with the car has been replaced somewhere along the line.

Protect yourself when buying used vehicles:

  • First, don’t purchase a used vehicle if the owner doesn’t have paperwork showing the car is in good shape and the airbag is working.
  • Ask for a history of repairs and maintenance done on the vehicle, and read it.
  • Get the car inspected by an ACE-certified mechanic before buying it.

Be sure to have commercial auto insurance in the event you are targeted by these airbag thieves.