A thief uses a laptop computer, possibly to pair his own key to the Jeep's electronic ignition.

Want to keep your car from thieves? Don’t worry about them hacking into it, worry about leaving your keys in the car. A new study shows more and more folks are losing their cars to opportunistic crooks.

In 2015, a car was reported stolen every 45 seconds, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). However, one out of every eight, or every 6:30, were due to the driver leaving the keys in the car.

It’s a growing problem according to the latest report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). The 57,096 thefts in 2015 were a 22% increase over the previous year. During the past three years, it has grown 31%.

Since many people do not admit to leaving their car unlocked with the keys or FOB inside, the actual numbers of thefts with the keys left in vehicles may be considerably higher than the report indicates.

“Anti-theft technology has had a tremendous impact on reducing thefts over the past 25 years, but if you don’t lock it up, it’s not going to help,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle.

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“Complacency can lead to a huge financial loss and inconvenience for the vehicle owner. Leaving a vehicle unlocked or with the key or FOB inside gives a thief the opportunity to take not only the car, but also any possessions inside. It can also provide access to your personal information if the registration is left in the glove compartment.

“We have reports from our law enforcement partners that car thieves have stolen the car, driven it to the residence and burglarized the home before the owner even knew the vehicle was missing.”

For the years 2013 through 2015, a total of 147,434 were reported stolen with the keys left in the vehicle. In 2013, there were 43,643 thefts; 46,695 thefts in 2014 and 57,096 in 2015.

The top five states with the most vehicle thefts with keys during this reporting period were California (22,580), Texas (11,003), Florida (9,952), Ohio (8,623) and Nevada (8,073).

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The top five core-based statistical areas (CBSA) were Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nevada (7,815), Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, Michigan (4,380), Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, Georgia (4,118), Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Florida, (3,847) and Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD (3,365).

Noting it’s the easiest type of crime to prevent, NICB advises:

  • Lock the vehicle, set the alarm and take all keys or FOBS.
  • Do not leave the garage door opener in the vehicle.
  • Take a picture of your registration on your cell phone and do not leave the registration or other papers with personal information in the vehicle.
  • Never leave a car unlocked and running to warm it up or while stopping for a quick cup of coffee. It only takes a moment for the opportunistic thief to jump inside and drive off.

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Saturday is the most common day for this type of theft to occur, the study showed with Mondy and Friday following up. Surprisingly, there was one state — Hawaii — that had a perfect record with not one report of a vehicle theft with keys.

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