This FBI Training Video Shows You How To Steal A Car

Ever watch gone in sixty seconds and wonder how a thief could steal a car so quickly? That’s not even possible, right? Well, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been cracking that nut since before many of our readers were even born. Interestingly enough, they’ve had a task force dedicated to this exact crime for decades. Obviously, with advances in technology, thieves have had to learn new tricks and develop entirely new skillsets. The G men tasked with catching them, have kept up.
That is to say, it was once much easier to steal a car. Now, it seems criminals utilize a whole bag of gadgets that would make James Bond and Q envious. The modern thief is equipped with things like laptops, scanners, and decoders rather than hand tools or mechanical devices. But, the “trade” had to start somewhere, right? This FBI training film was made in 1970, and it addresses the methods and tools those criminals used back then. So, while there is undoubtedly a new video floating around the Bureau these days, that one is probably kept under lock and key.
Speaking of lock and key…That’s exactly where we auto thieves of yesteryear typically started.

Well, It Actually Starts With A Wreck

The FBI’s short film begins with a young car thief absconding with what appears to be a 1967 Biscayne Sedan – oof! But before we get to his exact methods he used, we should note what the feds find out about the operation he’s a part of and what would compel someone to steal a car in the first place. Thieves are taking a major risk when stealing a car, so it bears asking why? Well, outside of the occasional joy ride, transportation, or some kind of getaway vehicle, it’s for a profit, of course.
But, if a stolen car is going to be passed off as a legitimately used vehicle, a number of things need to happen. There are a number of ways that criminals can “fence” a stolen car. The most difficult to detect, and likely the impetus for creating this film, is the organized operation – a chop shop if you will. Before a thief goes out and finds a car to steal, they typically begin by purchasing a car from a salvage or wrecking yard. Once they have a shell to work off of, they can begin the process outlined in the FBI’s video. The wrecked or salvaged car will serve as a “donor” for identifying markers such as the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). That way, when the thieves swap the VIN to the “new” stolen car, they can register it with the Department Of Motor Vehicles. If done at a high-level, this makes it very difficult to detect to the untrained eye.

It’s All About Making That GTA

Once a donor vehicle is sourced, all that is left for the thieves to do is find a suitable match. The way the operation works in this film seems to be on-point with reality. The thief chooses a vehicle in a different part of town, or possibly from another town entirely. As the saying goes, “thieves don’t go shopping in their own neighborhood.” When it comes time for the thief in this story to gain entry into the chosen vehicle, he uses a pretty standard vehicle entry tool – a bent piece of wire or metal rod used to slide past the rubber window seal and pop the door-lock knob manually. Interestingly enough, tools like that can still be purchased from a number of online retailers catering to tow truck drivers, and the like.
Once the thief is inside the vehicle is when it gets interesting. He makes quick work of dismantling the car’s ignition switch and lock cylinder. He already has another one ready to plug into the ignition harness, presumably from the other donor car. Since he already has the key to that car, starting the stolen one with the new switch is as easy as turning the key. Still, he waits until the car has coasted down the block before starting it, lest he alert the owner and cut down the amount of time he has to get it back to his shop.
He effectively accomplishes a number of things by stealing the car in such a clean way. First, he causes no damage to the car that would alert outside observers to the fact that it’s stolen, like smashing a window. He also refrains from using more rudimentary methods of starting the car, like “hot-wiring” or breaking the ignition all together. Lastly, he prevents the owner from realizing the vehicle is missing right away by acting stealthily. The window of time before the owner alerts the authorities is ever shrinking, and so it is in his best interest to maintain that element of surprise. Also, by preventing damage to the vehicle during theft, the amount of work during the cloning process is considerably lessened. There’s no glass to clean up, window to replace, or wiring to fix. All done without the aid of any specialized tools or electronics…

The Cloning Process

Once the car is at the chop shop, the cloning process can begin. The thieves operating the racket in this film are crafty indeed – real professionals. As stated previously, they can do a number of things with a stolen car to make a profit. They can part it out to a used parts distributor, or it can be given a quick once-over and sold quickly before it’s reported stolen. The Biscayne in the video receives the full treatment, though. This is what makes it so difficult to detect as stolen.
The stolen car is stripped of any identifying parts, such as the VIN plates on the door jams, dash, and firewall. The wrecked and salvaged car provides the new VIN tags that are either applied directly atop the old stolen tags or where they once were. For a really thorough job, the tags are removed with a considerable amount of effort by either cutting the entire panel off with a torch, grinder, etc., or hammering the tags off with a chisel. This makes way for the donor VIN tags to be riveted or bonded in the same place.
When they bought the wrecked car, it came with a title. With that title, the thieves were able to apply for new license plates and valid registration. So when the crew is done “cloning” the stolen car, the forgery will be indiscernible to the casual observer or even those with a keen eye. Only after rigorous detective work will it be able to be determined as stolen.
Of course, if a donor car isn’t available, thieves still want to make a profit. The methods they use to do so are simply less refined – even crude. Some clever stamp work can craft new VIN tags or alter the originals. Of course, this method is a bit easier to detect because the factory typically uses distinct methods for attaching such tags. Then there’s the paperwork. If a donor car doesn’t provide the title, registration, and license plates, thieves will often resort to simple forgery, or even stealing the official forms from the DMV.

Detection

The video shows a chase in which the Biscayne is ditched by one of the thieves. It is unknown why he flees as the clone they made at the chop shop would likely not have been detected by the police, but we can only assume the other crimes he might have been wanted for.
Once the car is taken to the Police impound, a team of two investigators goes over the car with a fine-toothed comb looking for clues that will point them in the direction of the crime and criminals. The team uses a slew of forensic methods to determine what exactly happened – including dusting for fingerprints, sending paint samples to a lab, documenting evidence, and cross-referencing VIN numbers. After it is determined that the car was stolen by means of feeling behind the fender for a crude weld, the rightful owner is notified and brought in to identify the vehicle as their own. The owner is then left to deal with their insurance company and bank…hopefully they like the new color.

Best Methods Of Prevention

While the methods used in this video are antiquated, that doesn’t mean they aren’t still in use today. If you own a classic car this should be a major concern for you because classic cars are a popular target of car thieves. This is because they are usually much easier to break into and steal than modern cars. They’re also harder to track down once they are stolen because of the old methods used to identify them. Their parts are valuable, and there is a very strong market for classic American cars outside the U.S.
So, how do you make your car harder to steal? We’re glad you asked. First, you can start by keeping the car garaged, locked, and the keys secured in a safe storage space. This is probably a “no-brainer” but we understand it isn’t always an option for whatever reason. Definitely don’t keep one of those “hide-a-keys” under the wheel well, though. Moving on, a huge deterrent is a vehicle alarm – but more importantly, showcasing that the vehicle has an alarm is important. A sticker in the window might make a thief think twice…or it might just make them disconnect the battery, who knows?

Can you believe this is the same car? A skilled chop shop can make this happen in a matter of days. Don't let it be your car.

Still, there are other things you can do. Like, installing a hidden kill-switch, a removable steering wheel, or some type of tracking system. The options go on, but the name of the game is deterrence. You want to make the thief think your car will be difficult to steal so he moves on to an easier target.
We’re sure there a plenty of methods we don’t know about. If you have some that we should know about, leave a comment in the comment section below. Until then, keep them inside, and if you can’t, at least keep them locked!

About the author

Vinny Costa

Fast cars, motorcycles, and loud music are what get Vinny’s blood pumping. Catch him behind the wheel of his ’68 Firebird. Chances are, Black Sabbath will be playing in the background.
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