It's something most of us do every day, without thinking about how it leaves us open to a very expensive form of theft.

Okay, people don't do it every day. Mostly, people only do it in the winter, when the weather gets colder and they want a warm vehicle for their commute. So they run outside and start the vehicle, turn up the heater/defroster, and then run back inside to fill the travel mug or make a quick stop in the bathroom before heading to work. Everyone does it, even in parking lots outside their work before making the trip home.

WBZN Old Town Maine logo
Get our free mobile app

But AAA New England cautions that automobile thieves will look for that white exhaust smoke as a signal that a vehicle is ripe for the picking. It only takes a few seconds for them to jump behind the wheel, throw the vehicle in gear, and take off. And then your day has gone from a warm trip in the car to a long day on the phone with the police and your insurance company. They call it 'warm-up theft.'

The National Insurance Crime Bureau calls this situation 'puffing,' because of the puffing white exhaust smoke. Their statistics show that, in 2019, 84,131 vehicles, nationwide, were stolen with the keys left inside. They advise never leaving an unattended vehicle running, even if it's sitting in your driveway.
But there are some things you can do to avoid falling victim to warm-up theft, which is another form of what police call crimes of opportunity.

How Mainers can Avoid Warm-up Theft

There are several ways you can avoid falling victim to warm-up theft, which is when car thieves target unattended vehicles that have the engines running.

15 Ways to Avoid Falling Victim to Crimes of Opportunity

Protecting your valuables is often a matter of being aware of potential risks. These tips could help save you from what police call crimes of opportunity.

12 Signs That You Could Be a Victim of Identity Theft

Identity theft can happen so quickly, and potentially take so long to resolve. Keep an eye out for these 12 warning signs and maybe you can limit the damage done to your credit and your life.

More From WBZN Old Town Maine