A ring of car thieves targeting luxury peer-to-peer car sharing service HiGear
has caused the company to shut its doors. The thieves used fake identities and stolen credit cards to bypass the company's security and fees on the way to stealing four cars worth approximately $300,000.
The closure comes as something of a surprise, as early business for HiGear had been strong, with expansion from its original San Francisco-area haunts to Los Angeles late last year and plans to take on San Diego and Portland. Ironically, it was the company's focus on high-end vintage, sports, and luxury cars from brands like Aston Martin, Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Lamborghini, and Tesla that proved to be its downfall.
Why? Because the high dollar values of such cars on the black market made it worth the effort of serious criminals. In a written statement to members, according to TechCrunch
, HiGear says it thinks similar peer-to-peer car sharing services that deal in more run-of-the-mill transportation aren't as vulnerable to the identity-theft infiltration. "Criminals get a better return for their efforts with more expensive vehicles. At this time we believe that Getaround, RelayRides and other similar P2P services offer adequate safety procedures and protection. We encourage you to try the other services if you would like to continue renting out your car," the company wrote.
"Some" of the four cars stolen by the ring have since been recovered, but the potential for future similar occurrences made HiGear decide the fees of $125-600 per day and the $20-40 per day in rental insurance weren't enough protection.
Will another, perhaps more secure, luxury/supercar sharing service arise in HiGear's place? The market seems to be ripe for the idea, as HiGear was projecting growth on the order of 200 percent over the next three months before the thefts.