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Here's why thieves are targeting airbags in the DC region | Verify

The stolen devices are often linked to insurance fraud.

WASHINGTON — After a series of airbag thefts happening around the area — dozens in Fairfax and Loudon Counties in the past few weeks — the Verify team is looking to find out more about what’s going on.

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Thieves are targeting airbags because they’re prime for resale. 

We usually think of the airbag as something to protect those inside of the car in case of a collision, not something that needs to be protected–but as we’re seeing in strings of airbag thefts recently, it is something to watch out for in the DMV.

“Regardless of the brand, airbags are very expensive,” explains Laura Garcia, automotive instructor at Northern Virginia Community College. 

She that ups their value on the black market, adding prices are currently inflated because of supply chain issues. These stolen airbags can also be linked to insurance fraud. 

“Let's say a vehicle gets into an accident and the insurance company pays for a legitimate airbag from the manufacturer, which could be over a thousand dollars,” said Garcia, “but here that shop, maybe it isn't that reputable, and will just buy another airbag off the street for a much lower price, and therefore they get to keep that profit." 

The National Insurance Crime Bureau estimates 50 thousand airbags are stolen each year, costing car owners and insurers more than $50 millions—but costs thieves little time at all. 

“They can just come in here and pretty easily can pop off some of the trim pieces, and do a couple of bolt, and voila, you have your airbag,” said Garcia, demonstrating how easily the critical parts can be removed from the vehicle.

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You can make your vehicle less of a target.

To deter criminals, the Montgomery County Maryland Police Department recommends parking in well-lit, known areas, investing in cameras, alarms, or clubs and always locking doors and windows.

“Just sort of the things you would do to prevent theft in general,” added Garcia.

If your airbag is stolen, get a new one as soon as possible. 

If you are a car novice, it is important to take your vehicle to a pro; Garcia explains airbags are important safety devices that can easily become dangerous.

“If you don't follow the proper safety procedure, you can ignite the airbag that you're working on, as well as potentially other airbags in your vehicle,” she said. “So airbag repairs, generally speaking, you definitely want to take that into a professional.”

The experts say you may also want to go to a pro if your airbag light comes on, which could be a sign of a faulty, fake, or improperly installed device.

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