Having your car keys stolen can be a scary experience, but there are a few things you need to do as quickly as possible.

Visit the auto dealership for your car make to get a new set of keys made. You have two basic choices; either get a new set of keys with new chips that have to be re-sequenced with your car’s computer, or get both the keys and new barrels as well. Barrels are part of the locking mechanism, where you insert your key. Be prepared, because this can be quite expensive.

The latest technology for vehicles is a product of the computer age. Most cars are equipped with onboard computers. These computers perform a myriad of tasks allowing them to enhance your car’s performance and fuel economy.

At the time of manufacture, each set of keys is equipped with a chip containing a numerical code up to 32 characters long. This allows billions of possible numeric combinations, so your set of keys has a unique identity for your vehicle alone.

In addition, at the time of manufacture, this code is matched to your vehicle’s computer, and the identification number (VIN for short) is stamped on the dash so it can be easily read through the windshield.

When you insert your key into the car’s ignition slot and turn the key to the on position, a signal goes out to the chip in your unique key(s) and “pings” the chip. The computer receives a signal that tells it this is the correct set of keys that should be allowed to start and drive this vehicle. Once this has occurred, your car’s engine will start, and you are on your way. Electronically, this happens almost instantaneously, so you are unaware of the matching sequence that is taking place.

Remember how easy it is for you now to get your car’s VIN? Unfortunately, it is also easy for a thief posing as a car’s owner to just read your VIN off your car, go to a dealer or locksmith, and have a key made which will start your car.

The only way this can be prevented is to keep a piece of paper or cardboard over the VIN on the inside of your dash so no one can read it while your car is locked and you are away. Also, keep your car keys in a safe place while you are away from the car.

Get three quotes online to protect your car against theft with comprehensive coverage.

Michelle Megna contributed to this story.

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Contributing Writer

Prachi is an insurance writer with a master’s degree in business administration. Through her writing, she hopes to help readers make smart and informed decisions about their finances. She loves to travel and write poetry.