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Leave the stereo, take the airbag

Insurance industry says lucrative market exists for stolen airbags
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Forget that car stereo. Insurance experts say smash and grab thieves who target parked cars are frequently after a different quarry: your car’s airbag.

 

Thieves in the Rhawnhurst section early Monday stole airbags from four cars, all of them Hondas. That follows on the heels of a spurt of airbag thefts on March 1 in which thieves targeted nine cars -- again, all Hondas.

“It typically happens in a rash,” said Carrol Kaplan, director of public affairs for the National Crime Insurance Bureau. “They steal for resale. There’s a big profit margin in it for them.”

Kaplan says that stolen airbags are often sold over the internet through sites like Craigslist or eBay. Often, the buyer is someone who was in an accident, but doesn’t want to report it to their insurance company to avoid paying a deductible.

Where a new airbag costs $1,000, stolen ones can be bought for $200.

Another source of stolen airbags is unscrupulous auto body shops, which buy them cheap but bill insurance companies for new equipment, Kaplan said. Some will even place orders for bags that match cars they are working on.

One common myth is that airbags and airbag components are stolen for the scrap metal they contain. Kaplan said a scrapper would make more money keeping their eyes on the ground and picking up random metal on the street.

The Insurance Information Institute estimates that there are over 75,000 airbags stolen each year. They cost insurers about $75 million each year.

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