Do insurers pay out when it comes to car-jamming claims?

car-jammingCar jamming is by no means a new trick – the tactic has been reported on for a number of years now and it’s still being used.

Essentially, car jamming is a practice whereby thieves use a signal-jamming device to interfere with your car remote. “Criminals gain access to your parked vehicle by watching when you attempt to lock your vehicle, and block your car remote signal with a standard home remote which operates at the same frequency,” explains Mandy Barrett of insurance brokerage and risk advisors, Aon South Africa.  “This prevents the locking action of the car from being activated, leaving your vehicle and all its contents open to being ransacked.”

Car break-ins are a huge problem in South Africa. According to Statistics South Africa’s annual victims of crime survey (VOCS), for the period of 1 April 2016 – 31 March 2017, there were 42 703 incidents of theft of motor vehicles, 129 880 cases of theft out of a motor vehicle (ie, stolen items from vehicles) and 31 396 cases of motor vehicle vandalism/deliberate damage of vehicles.

Even though car break-ins are common, break-ins as a result of a car-jamming device have not always been sympathetically viewed by insurers. Initially, insurers put their foot down and refused to pay these claims, pointing to their policy terms and conditions, which often clearly spell out that there has to be forceful breaking and entering evidence visible on the car before claims are paid.

However, fast forward to 2017, and it appears that car insurers have somewhat relaxed their stance when it comes to remote jamming related claims. “If an insured car is stolen due to car jamming, most insurers will cover the loss and King Price is no exception,” says Wynand van Vuuren, head of legal and claims at King Price.

In some instances, you must ensure that you have the right policy in place. “Car jamming can be covered through insurance solutions designed by Aon where the client enjoys assets all-risks cover, although on standard all-risks cover, theft from an unattended vehicle is excluded unless there are signs of forcible/violent entry and exit,” says Barrett.

The only real defence against falling victim to remote jamming is to mitigate the risk by being aware of the practice and personally checking that your vehicle’s doors are locked.

But there are a few companies that still require clients to jump through hoops. Dawie Loots, CEO at MUA Insurance Acceptances, points out that policies relating to car-jamming claims vary greatly. “For a claim to be successful the insurer would likely request some form of proof from the client that a car-jamming device was used, which is particularly tricky unless the motorist happens to park in view of a security camera and is also able to obtain the footage which supports their version of events,” says Loots.

“It’s the industry norm to require visible signs of forced entry into a car before covering any items stolen out of a car. The reason for this is that expensive portable possessions like laptops and phones are high risk, and the onus is on the insured to check that their car is locked,” adds van Vuuren.

Prevention is better than cure

Some shopping malls and other businesses – including Brooklyn Mall in Pretoria, Melville Post Office and Carefree Kids Montessori Centre – have bought jamming detectors from Fidelity ADT, which can be mounted on walls. These devices detect when someone is within 100-170m range and using a jamming device. “When a jamming device is detected, a siren goes off which alerts a designated person or persons in range that there is a potential jamming device in usage. This person can then warn everyone in the area to check their cars. The system is perfect for any area with a parking arcade or parking lot or where people leave their cars. It has been extremely successful in reducing the number of jamming incidents,” says Agnieszka Gryn, general manager at Fidelity ADT’s inland region.

But what can you do to prevent yourself from becoming victim of car-jamming thieves? The obvious thing would be to not have anything of value in the car when you go off on your shop. “We would like to urge motorists to be vigilant and most importantly do not leave valuables in your vehicle. If criminals do not have any reason to gain access to your vehicle, they will not do so,” says Jason Mordecai, CEO of 7Arrows Security.

In addition, you should always check that your car is properly secured before you head off. “The only real defence against falling victim to remote jamming is to mitigate the risk by being aware of the practice and personally checking that your vehicle’s doors are locked. Make sure you hear the beep of the alarm system and the audible sound of the locking mechanism. Physically check the doors and boot to make sure they are locked,” says Barrett.

This article first appeared in City Press.

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