The methods of car theft have long remained the same throughout the years. The public has often been warned that vehicles left running to warm up in the winter are easy targets for theft, as are cars parked away from street lights. But as technology changes, thieves are now moving past crimes of convenience and employing bolder schemes to net bigger profits.
Each year new technologies are added to cars in order to help with everyday problems. Whether to prevent a driver from fumbling to find their key fob at the bottom of a bag or preventing the classic situation of locking keys in the car, new technologies are helping to make these issues of the past.
With keyless entry, many cars now allow the driver to unlock the door or trunk as long as the key is nearby, as well start the car with one press of the button. As many new cars begin to utilize keyless entry features, thieves are creating their own technology to mimic those radio frequencies. Dubbed “mystery devices,” electronic scanner boxes can open these locks in seconds allowing criminals to use a technology meant as a safety feature to their own advantage.
As these devices become more prevalent, the NICB conducted a study on various vehicle models to mimic the technology used to break into and steal cars and valuables left inside. The device was tested on 35 different makes and models over a two-week period. Of those vehicles tested, the NICB was able to open 19 (54%) of the vehicles and start and drive away 18 (51%) of them. Even more concerning, the device also allowed them to restart 12 (34%) of those stolen vehicles even after the ignition was turned off.
Without the common signs of theft, like broken windows or tools left behind, it’s impossible to know the prevalence of these devices. A thriving replacement parts market made Honda Accords the top target of thieves, but as technology changes as do the pursuits of these criminals. These types of devices are allowing thieves to target newer, more valuable cars, and finding ways to get around anti-theft features – often by using technology themselves.
Among the safeguards owners of vehicles with key fobs can take to mitigate the risks of their vehicle being stolen are bringing their keys to their bedroom (so they are out of range of the vehicle), or even storing it in the freezer, so that the signal can’t be jumped.
Being aware of the latest threats, including so-called “mystery devices” and other technology-driven car theft tactics, can help you lessen the chances that your vehicle will be stolen.