How to prevent your car being stolen using keyless entry scam

Shocking footage has emerged showing a gang of car thieves stealing an expensive Mercedes-Benz within minutes, and without causing any damage or setting off an alarm.

The footage of the so-called ‘relay theft’ shows the criminals using a relay box to receive a signal from the key behind the door of the house and transmit it to another relay box near the car. This then tricks the car into unlocking and starting, allowing the thieves to drive off.

The crime, which happened in Solihull in the West Midlands on 24 September, has led to security experts Thatcham Research issuing guidance on how to avoid being a victim of a similar keyless crime.

“Keyless entry systems on cars offer convenience to drivers, but can in some situations be exploited by criminals,” said Thatcham Research’s chief technical officer, Richard Billyeald. “Concerned drivers should contact their dealer for information and guidance, and follow our simple security steps.”

Recent data reveals that 91,000 vehicles were stolen in 2016, up from 70,000 in 2013. However, this data relates to all vehicles, including mopeds, motorbikes and vans. Car crime peaked in 1992, a year which saw 620,000 thefts.

Thatcham Research security tips for drivers with keyless entry systems

  • Contact your dealer and talk about the digital features in your car. Have there been any software updates you can take advantage of?
  • Check if your keyless entry fob can be turned off. If it can, and your dealer can also confirm this, then do so overnight.
  • Store your keys away from household entry points. Keeping your keyless entry fob out of sight is not enough – thieves only need to gain proximity to the key to amplify the signal.
  • Be vigilant. Keep an eye out for suspicious activity in your neighbourhood – and report anything unusual to the police.
  • Review your car security. Check for aftermarket security devices such as Thatcham-approved mechanical locks and trackers, which are proven to deter thieves.

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