Some Canadian car shoppers are getting duped into buying an expensive and ineffective car theft deterrent, says one automotive expert.

During an investigation of Globali, a Canadian company touting itself as a leading "vehicle registration, protection and recovery network," CBC’s Marketplace found car buyers may pay between $400 and $700 for a service that expert Mark Whinton says is a just a cash grab.

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Mark Whinton says the Globali system is a ‘totally ineffective’ deterrent to auto theft. (CBC)

"It’s ineffective, completely ineffective," he said. "No thief worth their salt is ever going to run up to a car, see it has a sticker on it and say, ‘Geez, I’m not touching this one.’

"It’s about automotive dealers making some extra money at your expense."

Whinton estimates the Globali service costs the dealership between $50-$70 to install per vehicle, but he's seen dealers charge the customer as much as $700.

He says the entire system misleads customers starting at the point of purchase, since some dealers tack it on as an extra cost without telling the buyer, or say that it’s a mandatory add-on.

"Most buyers are unaware of it completely," he told Marketplace co-host Tom Harrington. "If they happen to notice that, they’re told, ‘Look, it comes with the car.’

 "A lot of dealers are telling customers, ‘We can’t take it off the car, it’s on it now. And you have to purchase it.’"

Dan Ormond unwittingly paid $399 plus tax for Globali when he bought his Jeep in 2011.

"I would have questioned it because I have full-blown insurance and I don’t understand even what this is about," he said. "I would not have purchased it if it was offered to me. "

Redundant registration system

For all that extra cash, car owners are left with a weak deterrent.

Globali’s system consists of small stickers placed throughout the car which, if removed, leave unique registration numbers readable with an ultraviolet light.

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Globali’s ultraviolet registration numbers were easily rubbed off with a piece of sandpaper. (CBC)

Marketplace’s investigation found multiple flaws in the system, starting with the stickers.

Whinton says the Globali numbers are essentially redundant.

"The car is marked in many many locations with a 17-digit vehicle identification number put on by the manufacturer. So it already has serial numbers all over it … And that clearly doesn’t deter thieves."

Even if the numbers were useful, Marketplace also found they’re easy to remove; Whinton was able to erase the numbers with a quick rub of sandpaper.

Globali responded with an email statement which read, "We have never had a situation where one of our stickers, properly applied, has been removed and the imprint removed using ordinary means."

The company also said it would be "quick to address any issue found with the performance of our marking system." 

Police ‘never heard of it’

The numbers aren’t very useful even if they’re intact, since many police departments don’t use Globali to recover stolen vehicles.

Watch Marketplace's episode, The Busted Edition, Friday at 8 p.m. (8:30 p.m. in Newfoundland and Labrador).

The company’s website says it "unites vehicle owners, dealers and law enforcement agencies," but Marketplace found that many police agencies aren’t even aware of the service.

"They’re trying to insinuate it … like, ‘We have a very close working relationship [with police]," Whinton says. "In fact, the police hardly know who they are." 

Marketplace contacted police departments in Winnipeg, Montreal, Regina, Halifax and Calgary, all of which said they’d never heard of Globali. A Toronto police spokesman said he was aware of it but never used it, while another in Vancouver said he would use as a last resort.

Globali’s email statement countered that the company "would not generally expect the average police force to be aware of Globali.com. Auto theft units are a specialized division within law enforcement." 

 "I’m not sure what to make of [Globali’s]

claim," says Staff Sgt. Robert Rutledge, who works in the Calgary police’s auto theft unit. "I have 23 years of policing experience, including time as an auto theft detective … and until today, I’ve never heard of Globali."

Watch Marketplace's episode, The Busted Edition, Friday at 8 p.m. (8:30 p.m. in Newfoundland and Labrador).