South Georgia car dealer latest victim of theft ring - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

South Georgia car dealer latest victim of theft ring

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A warning for Georgia car dealerships.  A car theft ring is targeting high end trucks and SUV's in South and Middle Georgia.

The Georgia Auto Dealers Association says they believe 10 vehicles have been stolen across Georgia by this ring in recent weeks, including the latest stolen from an Albany area car dealer last week.

The car thefts all have the same MO and the same description for the thieves. A young couple, man and woman. And at the Albany dealership they think the woman was pregnant, as they stole a truck worth more than 35 thousand dollars.

Toyota of Albany employees realized the four wheel drive Toyota Tundra pick up was missing during monthly inventory. It was last seen on their rock displays out front.

General Manager Mark Wamsley said "Once we started looking into it we discovered the keys were switched and the key fobs were the same. So a real sophisticated person came in and manipulated us."

The Georgia Auto Dealers Association sent out an alert Wednesday warning that this theft ring had hit several dealerships in Middle and South Georgia. One Savannah car dealer lost five vehicles in one day.

Wamsley said "According to the staff, they said they were a husband and wife team allegedly. She was obviously pregnant they said. They were driving a late model Honda Accord. And you would have never dreamt they were in the midst of trying to steal something."

The thieves are asking to look at several trucks, and are switching keys that they bring with them for the real car key when the salesman gives it to them.  Wamsley said "the sophistication of the art of the thievery is really changed."

Toyota of Albany has all the standard safeguards of their keys that most dealers require. Anytime a key is checked out of their storage system, it is automatically recorded. But these thieves are slick, and car dealers are warned to be on guard.

Wamsley said "We know our Tundra Truck is very popular. I would recommend other guys in my position to take care of their inventory also."

The car theft couple never ask to take a test drive.  That's because dealers usually require making a copy of your driver's license before you drive off.

The Georgia Auto Dealers Association says they believe these stolen cars are being shipped out of the country within hours of their theft, probably to Mexico. 

The association is recommending that car dealers use something like these plastic zip ties to secure their keys to the key fobs and the smart start systems.  Something that will make removing the keys tough.

Toyota of Albany's truck was covered by insurance, but the Georgia Car Dealer Association says stolen vehicles cost dealers thousands of dollars in deductibles, lost profit, and interest paid.

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