24,000 vehicles were stolen in London in 2014 according to the Metropolitan Police, 6,000 of which were taken without access to the owners’ keys. Most of these were keyless vehicles, the majority of them high value models. In 2015, keyless car thefts accounted for more than 25 per cent of all vehicle thefts across London.
Keyless car thefts have become something of an epidemic across Europe, with coveted SUVs being taken and shopped to the Middle East and Eastern Europe together with forged paperwork all prepared for the new ‘owners’.
The Vulnerability of Keyless Cars
Under EU law, manufacturers of vehicles are required to make the tools needed to access a car’s on-board diagnostic system widely available. This has resulted in wide scope for thieves to be able to come up with high-tech tools that allow them to hack a car’s security system.
Auto Express reported that German vehicle experts had been able to show how thieves were bypassing the central locking system and managing to start the engine of 24 different cars and vans by way of an ‘easily built’ electronic device. The technology created by these thieves was used to steal up to 17 cars EVERY DAY in London.
How are Keyless Cars Stolen?
Thieves employ a variety of methods to steal keyless cars. One involves a range extender. The thief watches the owner leave the car with the entry fob on them then follows them, using the range extender to send the entry signal back to the car. An accomplice thief waits by the car and, courtesy of the extended signal range, manages to access the vehicle. This is known as ‘signal relaying’.
‘Key programming’ is another method used. This involves the thief breaking into the car and then plugging into the diagnostic port with a specially designed device. They then programme a blank key.
‘Signal jamming’ is where a thief uses a device transmitting on the same radio frequency as the fob, jamming the signal that locks the car. The driver walks away from the vehicle believing it is safely locked, when in actual fact it is left open and ready for a thief to access.
How to Protect Your Vehicle?
If you are the owner of a keyless vehicle, the first thing you can do is make absolutely certain that you never leave your fob in the car. When you are at home, keep your car keys in a safe place and well out of range of your vehicle.
Signal jamming can be prevented by stopping to make sure your indicators flash when you push the lock button. Listen for the clunk of your locks before you leave it to make sure the car is definitely locked.
Signal relaying can be avoided by carrying your fob in a metal tin or protective wallet whilst out, and by keeping it out of sight whilst at home. You can prevent key programming by having a lock fitted to your car’s diagnostic port so that thieves are unable to access it to programme new keys.
Back-up measures can also be employed to protect your vehicle from theft, such as steering wheel, gearstick and handbrake locks. Whilst these are not completely impenetrable, they do act as a visual deterrent to thieves.
If you have a garage be sure to use it, or at very least make use of any off-street parking you have access to as it is a statistical fact that cars parked off the road are less likely to be stolen. If your only option is to park on the street then try to leave your vehicle in a well-lit and busy area.
Car tracking systems, although fairly pricey, will allow you to track and recover your vehicle if it does get stolen. GPS trackers will find vehicles at street level, whilst VHF systems are able to locate cars even when stashed underground or in a storage container.
Tailored Vehicle Insurance Solutions
Naturally as a vehicle owner, you will be eager to ensure that it is adequately insured, particularly if it is at the higher risk end of the spectrum. At Robert Gerrard we offer in-depth expertise in tailored insurance solutions to suit a range of specific needs, including specialist cover for high value performance and prestige models, multiple vehicles and imported, modified and kit cars. If you are looking for excellent value protection for your vehicle, please get in touch for a quote bespoke to your individual requirements.