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Secure yourself against keyless car theft

Find out how thieves are using legal gadgets to steal keyless cars and what you can do to stop them taking yours.

In an age of cyber-attacks and security hacks, we take many precautions to make sure our phones and gadgets are protected.

But what would you do if your car was the target of digital fraudsters?

Unfortunately, if you're the proud owner of a keyless car, it could very well be a reality for you.

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Research from Tracker shows that 88% of the stolen vehicles they recovered in 2018 were taken without using the owner’s keys, as it seems that thieves are turning to technology instead. 

Relay crime is the new tactic used by criminals to steal keyless cars quickly and quietly.

So, how can you stop yourself becoming a victim?

What is relay crime?

Relay crime lets thief access your car by corrupting the signal from your key to your vehicle.

If you leave your keys near the front of your house and have your car parked nearby, crooks can use relay boxes or scanners to disrupt the signal without ever entering your home or damaging your car.

These scanners can be legally bought and could unlock your car within seconds, as The Sun reported in February 2019. So how do they work?  

crooks can use relay boxes or scanners, to disrupt the signal without ever entering your home or damaging your car

One thief stands by your car with a scanner and pulls on the door handle to emit a signal. The signal is picked up by the scanner and relayed to a second device, which tricks the key into unlocking your car. 

The diversion of the signal makes your key think it’s near your car, so it unlocks, letting the criminals hop in and drive away without so much as a smashed window.

How to protect your keyless entry car

Between October 2017 and September 2018, there were over 110,000 vehicle thefts reported to the police, an increase of 10% on the year before – with keyless cars becoming increasingly popular, and scanners being a legal purchase, relay crime is likely to increase in line with these figures.  

Luckily, there are some simple steps you can take to avoid relay crime happening to you, so you can sleep peacefully:

  • Block the signal – keep your keys in a secure metal box, away from where your car is parked or check your car manual to see if it’s possible to turn the key signal off. 
  • Let’s get physical – use physical deterrents, like a Thatcham approved steering lock, and make sure your car alarm is in good nick. 
  • Buy a tracker – it won’t stop your car from being stolen, but it’ll come in handy if you need to trace it. 
  • Talk to your car dealer – your car dealer should be able to advise you and make sure your car gadgets have all the latest digital software security. 
  • Check your car – take care to make sure your car is locked, the windows are shut, and no valuables are on display. Use security cameras and keep your car in a garage, if possible. 

What should you do if your car is taken?

Report the crime immediately to the police and to your insurer. 

Your stolen vehicle may be used to commit crimes, such as speeding or running red lights, so you need to inform the police straight away, to avoid prosecution. 

Whether you get your vehicle back or not, you need to update DVLA on the situation as soon as you can and keep a record of all correspondence related to the theft. 

In my opinion… 

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Times are changing and so are the methods used by eagle-eyed criminals. As technology has continued to improve, keyless cars are becoming more and more common which is changing the way car thieves operate. 

Forcing the lock or breaking through a window have been the traditional ways car thieves operate but new ways of stealing faster and without causing damage is being made easier through scanner and relay technology. 

Luckily there are things you can do to protect your car from theft like parking in a secure place, placing your keys in a protective case, as well as fitting security alarms and steering locks. 

It’s also worth making sure you’ve got the right level of insurance cover and perhaps a vehicle tracker, just in case your car does get stolen. At least then you’ll have a higher chance of finding it again or at least being reimbursed for the cost. 

Last updated on 14 Feb 2019