How I helped track thieves who stole my £74,000 Merc: Should YOU get device that led police to criminals in minutes?

  • Claire Totman heard thieves starting the engine of her £74,000 Mercedes GLS
  • She phoned the tracking firm which had installed a high-tech device 
  • The gadgets rely on GPS to pinpoint the exact location of a vehicle 

When Claire Totman was woken at 3am by the sound of thieves starting the engine of her £74,000 Mercedes GLS in her driveway she did not hesitate to act.

Within moments the car had disappeared. She immediately phoned the tracking firm which had installed a high-tech device in her vehicle and then the police.

Fortunately for Claire police were patrolling the area and 12 minutes later the thieves were intercepted and her car was then returned.

Alert: Claire Totman’s stolen Mercedes GLS was quickly recovered

Alert: Claire Totman’s stolen Mercedes GLS was quickly recovered

The full-time foster carer from Epping in Essex is among a growing number of victims of modern keyless car theft who are fighting back using trackers that alert the police if a car is stolen.  

The gadgets rely on a global positioning system – GPS – to pinpoint the exact location of a vehicle. 

But unlike a traditional Satnav device, or a black box that monitors how a vehicle is being driven, the tracker is designed to catch criminals. 

As part of the service a security firm is alerted when a car is stolen and can relay movements to the police if given your permission.

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The technology is growing in importance as car thefts soar – up 10 per cent last year to 110,000, according to the Home Office. Most new cars are stolen using ‘relay’ gadgets. 

This is where keyless cars are hacked with a wi-fi reader that picks up signals from a fob in the home to open the door of the vehicle and then turn on the engine to drive off.

Claire Totman says: ‘There have been a lot of cars stolen in my area recently – Mercedes and Range Rovers seem to be top of the list. 

It would have been an nightmare had the thieves succeeded as vehicles get stolen to order and never seen again.’

The 61-year-old pays £149 a year for tracker monitoring after having it installed for £300 last year by Global Telemetrics. 

Since the theft she has also invested £15 in a ‘Faraday’ purse to stop signals from her keys being picked up from outside the home to thwart vehicle thieves. 

These bags have a metal-lined fabric that blocks the signal.

Among the tracker companies offering versions with 24-hour support and police-approved fitting are Scorpion Automotive, Tracking My Car, as well as Global Telemetrics and its sister firm SmarTrack.

The providers rarely do the fitting themselves but recommend a local dealer who will install a tracker as part of the single upfront cost for the device. 

The technology usually includes an app that enables motorists to keep tabs on a car on their smartphone. 

A separate subscription fee is paid for 24-monitoring where firms alert you if there is suspicious activity, such as signs the tracker has been tampered with.

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Gavin Hennessy, operations manager at Global Telemetrics in Coalville, Leicestershire, warns against buying a tracker on the internet. 

He recommends using a specialist with a ‘Thatcham Research’ rating. 

This is a standard developed by a security organisation recognised by the insurance industry.

Trackers can lower premiums by as much as 10 per cent, but the cost of the device and monitoring usually more than cancel out this saving.

Hennessy says: ‘Use a security expert and you might pay between £300 and £500 for a good quality tracker including installation. 

‘Part of the installer’s skill is that they do not have to stick them in a standard place – making it harder for thieves to get at. 

‘As soon as a thief tampers with a battery to disable a tracker we are alerted and immediately contact the car owner. 

‘With services such as ours there is always someone on duty to take your calls.’

On top of the installation cost Global Telemetrics – as with others – offers a range of regular payment options to monitor the tracker. 

For example, a tracker might cost £12.50 a month – or £150 a year to maintain. Alternatively, pay a one off cost of maybe £400 at the time of purchase.

Although security firms can monitor the location of a vehicle they will only be able to support the police if you have a crime number – so make sure to contact the police if you become a victim. 

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