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10 Signs of Suspicious Activities That Dealerships Need to Know

Posted by Robert Poe on Dec 7, 2022

Thieves, unfortunately, have a lot of tricks up their sleeves. Because of this, it’s a challenge to create a checklist of every possibility to identify suspicious activity at your dealership. However, there are clues that you can train your dealership employees to watch for as an indicator of a potential problem.

This is why dealership employees need to receive training on security at least once a year. This ensures they don’t become complacent. If you’re a visual person, check out the suspicious activity checklist infographic.

Here is your checklist of 10 things to help you identify suspicious activity that may indicate thieves are targeting your dealership. The first six are considered suspicious activity and the last four items are things your dealership can do.

1. Avoiding help

A typical dealership customer has one of three goals. They’re there to research vehicles, buy a vehicle, or get their car serviced. Most of the time, they want to talk with an employee to get more information and direction. They appreciate helpful customer service.

On the flip side, people with insidious plans avoid talking to employees. They work to blend in with the crowd. If a salesperson tries to talk to them, they’ll tell them they’re just looking and don’t need help. They tend to refuse to give their names when asked.

However, be aware that this isn’t always a surefire sign of suspicious activity. There are people who have legitimate reasons for avoiding salespeople. They may be very introverted, uncomfortable with strangers, or have a disability.

Some deaf and hard-of-hearing customers tend to avoid employees because of communication barriers. Remember, these are potential signs. When you notice any of these, then just watch them discreetly. They may be dangerous, so you don’t want them to notice your employees monitoring them.

2. Wearing strange clothing

People casing the dealership tend to wear clothes that don’t make sense based on the weather. That’s because they’re trying to avoid being identified. Examples of this include wearing a large-brimmed hat and big sunglasses on a dark and cloudy day.

Granted, they may have a hat on because it’s very cold, but not many people tend to opt for a big-brimmed hat. During warmer months, they may wear bulky clothes or an oversized coat.

When you notice someone wearing odd attire for the weather, pay attention without them noticing. Again, they may have legitimate reasons for their clothing choices.

3. Lacking interest in vehicles

It’s rare that anyone who has a reason to be at the dealership wouldn’t take an interest in the cars. Customers wander around looking at different vehicles. A good sign of suspicious activity is a person studying the property rather than the merchandise.

They may be looking up to search for surveillance cameras. While walking around the showroom and the back lot, they look for access points and opportunities.

4. Asking unusual questions

Experienced criminals know how to ask questions without tipping off anyone to their plans. They would never ask obvious questions like “What kind of security does your dealership have?” Instead, they try to become friendly with employees in an attempt to build rapport.

One example is “Wow! I had no idea you stayed open that late. What time do you manage to go home at night?” This is their way of trying to show empathy that they care about an employee’s late hours. In reality, they want to know when no one is present at the dealership.

The key is to watch for questions focused on dealership operations. This could be things related to the number of employees, their hours, where the more expensive vehicles are located, and information about deliveries.

5. Acting nervous

Savvy criminals are unlikely to act nervous. Still, not everyone is able to bluff their way. Good clues of when something is off are sweating in cold weather, avoiding eye contact, stumbling over words, and fidgeting.

While the process of buying a car isn’t fun for everyone, it shouldn’t affect someone’s nerves or cause them to behave strangely. Again, you never know who will come to your dealership.

Some suspicious activity can simply be someone with a disability. People with some disabilities may seem shady when it’s a side effect of their disability. Exercise caution and contact your security team.

With our proven solution you’ll have another layer of protection because there will be a recording of everything that happens to your dealership. The team can search the footage and provide evidence.

6. Working with others

There are organized crime gangs that work together. In this scenario, look for unusual groups of people at odd times. Are they signaling or motioning to each other from different parts of the dealership? They may be texting each other. They’re also likely to exhibit the other discussed clues.

7. Watch for seasonal trends

Clothing isn’t the only seasonal trend that can be a clue. During the wintertime, look for snow prints in the low-traffic areas around the dealership. Since it gets darker earlier during the winter, criminals tend to target that time to make it harder to spot them.

Be aware that there are more browsers at night during the summer. It’s cooler and more tolerable. Criminals will try to blend with these browsers.

8. Keep a log

Create a “Suspicious Activity Log” resource in a notebook or online. This should be a resource all employees can access. They should record the suspicious activity and any information such as describing the physical appearance of dodgy people, license plate information, as well as dates and times observed.

Encourage your employees to subtly take photos of suspicious people. It’s important for employees to learn not to engage with shifty suspects. There are more brazen thieves and it can put employees in a dangerous situation. All of this should be covered in the employee security training.

9. Change up routines

Criminals look for patterns in a dealership’s schedule. They may notice there are fewer people at a certain time of the day because that’s when the shift changes. Vary your employees’ schedules and breaks. Also, make sure you change up the times you make deliveries or go to the bank. Crooks look for these vulnerabilities.

10. Monitor for strange vehicles

Train employees to pay attention to vehicles that linger in the area for no reason. Check for vehicles parked in the corners of the dealership parking lots when there are plenty of open spaces closer to the dealership. This doesn’t always mean someone is up to something. Some people like to park further away to get more exercise.

Along the lines of not taking an interest in vehicles, criminals may be taking photos or videos of the property or building. Look for vehicles parked in areas to attempt to hide or blend in. This could be behind trees or in between vehicles.

Anytime your employees notice any of these signs of suspicious activity, they should capture all the information to enter in the log. They should carefully observe shady individuals. If you have a security team, have employees contact them.

How Dealerships Can Protect Themselves from Suspicious Activity

A dealership is huge with a lot of activity. They cannot lock away all of their most precious assets in a building. They have a parking lot filled with inventory worth millions of dollars.

A traditional dealership security system does not cut it anymore. Catalytic converter theft and vandalism occur very quickly. By the time a security system picks up on it, the suspects could be long gone. That’s because these traditional security systems tend to be reactive rather than proactive.

These security systems don’t always spot suspicious activity. The only way the dealership finds out something happened is when the manager or another employee arrives at the dealership first thing the next day and discovers something doesn’t feel or look right.

Dealerships need a robust security system that can help prevent theft, catch suspicious activity before anything happens, monitor employee activities, and increase productivity. Remote video surveillance can actually help improve operations and boost productivity.

Security cameras with video analytics and trained human operators provide multiple layers of security. This way if criminals break through one layer, the technology has other layers to protect the dealership.

An effective security system for automotive dealerships is an integrated security system that includes remote video surveillance, video analytics, and an access control system. What makes this integrated security system so effective is that video analytics intelligence and trained operating monitors put two different types of eyes across your entire property: technology and humans. This pairing helps them spot suspicious activity before anything happens.

What about an access control system? Its job is to manage who can enter and exit the dealership and specific areas in the dealership. You may keep all the key fobs in a closet, special room, or area to prevent key fob mirroring and keyless car theft. This space may house a large Faraday cage that blocks electric signals. You can control who has access to these designated places.

Key fobs should only be in two places: in the employee’s hands or in storage. It may be worth investing in a Faraday bag or something smaller. Employees can use this to safely carry the fob without fear of its signals being stolen when they walk the fob between the secure room and the vehicle and back.

The combination of an access control system with video surveillance makes it possible to search for events that happened at a certain time. Access control records the time someone enters a room. And that information can speed up the search for the video.

To learn more about dealership security, pick up this guide to four auto dealership theft trends. Please contact us with your questions.