Carjacking is an extremely serious, frightening and potentially life-threatening form of auto theft.
That's because in carjackings, brazen thieves confront their victims and use force to steal the vehicles. Sometimes these criminals even kidnap their victims — or worse.
"The point of carjacking, for the bad guys, begins with them desperately needing transportation for whatever reason," said Robert Siciliano, a Boston-based personal-security expert and spokesman for BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com.
"Or they are doing it for fun, or they want your car to chop it" up for parts, he added.
To get your car, carjackers could accost you in a parking lot while you're walking to your car — and take the car with or without you in it, Siciliano said.
"You could be driving and get in a minor fender-bender," he said. "You could get hit from the rear, but it's not a hard enough hit that it necessitate fire engines, law enforcement [and] ambulances."
"It's just enough to get your attention to get you to pull over on the side of the road," Siciliano said. "At that time, they carjack you and they either just take the car, or they take you as well."
Here are seven tips to help you protect yourself from carjackers.
Give up the car — most of the time
"If someone is crazy enough to want your keys and want your car, just give it to them," Siciliano said.
Throw the car keys as far away as possible, he added, then start yelling and running away.
"But if you have a kid in the car, that's a different story," Siciliano said. "So in those situations, you can say to the carjacker, 'I have a baby in the car. You can have the car, but I want my baby.' But he may or may not comply. He may be so desperate, it might not make a difference."
Be aware — and beware
If you're walking through a parking lot to get to your car, be aware of your surroundings.
"We call it situational awareness — you are aware of every situation going on around you," Siliciano said.
Be totally conscious of what's going on around you, and beware of any suspicious characters.
"That awareness may thwart a bad guy," Siliciano said. "If he sees you're fully paying attention, he may want to go after somebody else who's not paying any attention."
Foil the ruse
If someone "bumps" into your car, don't pull over on the side of the highway, or in a dimly lit, isolated location, to exchange information.
Either of those locations could give a carjacker the opportunity to steal your car and possibly kidnap or harm you.
Instead, drive to a well-lit, heavily populated area and call the police, or drive to the nearest police station, Siciliano said.
Do not get out of your car, he added. Lock your doors, roll up the windows and put your license and registration up to the window and tell the person to take a photo of it or write the information down.
"Keep your foot on the brake, [make sure] the car's running, it's in gear, maybe, or in park and you're ready to get out of Dodge," Siciliano said. "If anything happens, you can put the car in drive, put your foot on the gas and go."
Leave at the first sign of suspicion
If someone is approaching your car, such as in a parking lot or on the side of the road, step on the gas and get out of there — even if the person appears to have a gun.
"Don't get out of the car and do what he says," Siciliano said. "Some people think, 'But he has a gun, though.' And they think they have to do what he says. That's all the more reason to go. You don't stick around and find out what he's going to do. You go."
Don't get in the trunk
If you do get out of your car, the carjacker might want you to go with him.
"Or something even scarier — he might want you to go in the trunk," Siciliano said. "But you never go in the trunk of the car under any circumstances."
"You fight to get away," Siciliano said. "You try to escape. Remember, if they want your car, throw the keys at them and run in the opposite direction."
Red doesn't always mean stop
Carjackings often happen at red lights and at stop signs. So if you're stopped at a red light, be sure to keep your doors locked.
If someone is coming at you in a threatening manner, step on the gas even if you have to run the red light or the stop sign. Just exercise caution.
Be a good Samaritan without stopping
If you see a car broken down on the side of the road, do not stop to offer assistance, Siciliano said. Instead, call 911 to report the breakdown and keep moving.