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.

Amy Smith
Updated 01 October 2020  | 3 min read

Key points

  • Keyless car theft - using a device to trick the keyless system into unlocking your car – is on the rise
  • If your car is missing, check the area you left it in and find out whether it could have been towed by the local authority. If you’re sure it’s been stolen call the police and after you’re given a crime reference number, inform your insurer
  • What you’re covered for if your car is stolen varies between policies
  • You can get a signal-blocking Faraday pouch or bag to help protect your keys

In an age of cyber-attacks and security hacks, what do you do if your car was the target of digital fraudsters?

Unfortunately, if you own a keyless car, it could very well be a reality for you.

Research from security device manufacturer Tracker shows that 92% of the stolen vehicles they recovered in 2019 were taken without using the owner’s keys, so 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.

What is relay crime?

Relay crime is a way thieves can access your car. Instead of stealing your key first, they simply use a device to corrupt the signal your key sends to your vehicle.

These devices can be legally bought and could unlock your car within seconds. So how do they work?

Crooks can use relay boxes or scanners to disrupt the signal from your keys, without 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. This 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 April 2019 and March 2020, there were over 105,000 vehicle thefts reported to the police.

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

  • Block the signal. Check your car manual to see if it’s possible to turn the key signal off. Keep your keys in a secure metal box, away from where your car is parked. Or you can get a special signal blocking pouch to help protect your keys.
  • Use physical deterrents like a Thatcham-approved steering lock, and make sure your car alarm works
  • Buy a tracker. Although 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 – they should be able to make sure your car has the latest digital software security.
  • Check your car to make sure it’s locked, the windows are shut, and no valuables are on display. Use security cameras and keep your car in a garage, if possible.
Keyless cars are changing the way car thieves operate.

Protect your car by parking in a secure place, using a protective signal-blocking key case and fitting alarms and steering locks.

Make sure you’ve got the right level of insurance cover and perhaps a vehicle tracker, just in case your car does get stolen.
Ryan Fulthorpe, car insurance expert at GoCompare

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.