With the rise of keyless cars, there has been an obvious growth in the number of keyless thefts that take place.
However, it is little known that the growth of keyless theft far outstrips the amount of basic car theft that occurred before the introduction of new keyless technology. For example, at its peak, over 600,000 cars were stolen in the UK alone back in 1992. This huge number brought on the need for vastly better security when it came to cars themselves but also how the police and other authorities investigated car theft to bring criminals to justice. Therefore, just over 20 years later, the UK was able to release figures that confirmed that car theft had been reduced to just 56,000 cars that year.
However, with the introduction of keyless technology, that figure is now on the rise again with 89,000 cars being stolen last year. That’s a huge rise and difference to see, especially given that it is only keyless technology that seems to be the sole change and that keyless technology has not been widely rolled out to the more affordable car range. In fact, it is believed that only about 1% of cars on the road actually operate with keyless technology.
In this guide, we look at the best ways to avoid keyless theft and what we can all do to stop unnecessary crime.
But What Exactly Is Keyless Theft?
Keyless theft is not immediately obvious to some, but it is fairly straightforward to understand which is the first step to being able to stop it.
Put simply, it is a way that thieves manipulate cars that do not need a key to be unlocked and start the ignition so that they can drive them away without the alarm starting.
The way in which they do this can vary slightly, but in the main, a relay amplifier and relay transmitter can be used to not only detect a car that operates on keyless technology but then go on to use the car that operates on keyless technology. To complete the theft of the vehicle, most car thieves will need to work in pairs by having one stand near the car with the transmitter and the second will stand near the car owner’s house with the amplifier so that the “key” on the inside of the home can be used to open the car that is outside. The amplifier sends the signals to the transmitter that then becomes the new key.
The most worrying thing about this whole procedure is that it can be accomplished in under a minute and, without an alarm going off, owners will be deaf to hear their own car being driven away from them.
The main problem with keyless technology is that as it is not used more broadly across the entire car market, most of the technology used is the same across the board. It means that all criminals have to do is find any keyless car and they can use the same illegal contraptions that they bought on the black market, time after time.
What makes matters worse is that, according to popular belief, keyless car theft is more often than not due to organised crime, making the crime more difficult to deal with. It is widely understood that this is one of the key reasons behind the proliferation of this particular felony along with the ease with which it can be carried out.
In addition to this, is the fact that police and other investigative authorities only really have a few short hours to be able to trace a car successfully once it has been stolen. After that, it is understood that many of these keyless cars make their way to countries in Eastern Europe where they are broken down into smaller parts and sold on with a speed that is almost staggering.
So What Can Be Done To Stop Keyless Car Theft?
Thankfully, the car industry seems to have acknowledged the problem, albeit a bit slowly. Manufacturers are developing new technology that means having a keyless car won’t leave owners as prone to theft as they once could have been.
The difference has been that the technology that is installed in the latest cars cannot be manipulated by transmitters or amplifiers like older models have been duped in the past. Plus, with a growing awareness of the problem by consumers, there is obvious mounting pressure for car manufacturers to up the ante and improve the technology even further so that would-be owners are safe from theft.
Insurance companies are obviously a huge pressure on manufacturers too as they make cars far more expensive to insure with known vulnerabilities in their keyless technology. This puts many customers off buying the car in the first place.
Tips To Avoid Keyless Theft
That’s all very well, but what can those that bought the technology in the first instance do to improve their chances of not being a victim to keyless theft? Luckily, these cars are not just sitting ducks waiting for the wrong criminal to come along. There are a number of methods you can employ to keep your car safe.
- Keep Your Key Away From Doors And Windows
It may sound obvious, but after having locked your car, try to keep the key away from your front door or windows. By increasing the distance which your car is from your key, you will diminish a thief’s chance and ability to use a transmitter or amplifier that can manipulate your key from inside your house. Plus, it also minimises the chances of a thief reverting to old techniques and breaking into your house to get your car keys and then drive off with your vehicle. If you are really worried about your car’s close proximity to your key, some car manufacturers advocate putting your key in a metal box to protect it from amplifiers.
- Switch Your Key Off
While this technology is not included on all keyless car keys as standard, it is included on some, so it is worth investigating – especially given the fact that it is not always very obvious whether it is possible to turn them off or not. For example, some keys will switch off if you press a button twice on the handset, or even if you push the correct combination of buttons. So whilst it’s not immediately obvious, it is definitely worth looking in to. If you can’t find information within your owner manual, try giving your dealership where you bought your car from a call. They should be able to help without any problems.
- Putting Up Physical Barriers
It may sound a little antiquated, but a steering wheel lock still offers some of the best protection from car thieves that are on offer on the market at the moment. Other forms of physical barriers that will stop a keyless car theft is using a driveway parking post or even your very own wheel clamp. These physical barriers are obviously a way of preventing thieves from being able to drive your car away, even if they have been able to enter it and start the engine.
- Install A Tracking Device
A car GPS tracker is a good idea to install into any car, let alone one that is vulnerable to one of the thousands of keyless car thefts that are carried out on our streets. The reason being is that cars that have a GPS tracker installed have a massive 96 percent recovery rate. Cars without a tracker have only a 1 in 2 chance of ever being found and recovered. While having to deal with your car being stolen is still stressful, at least one of your most expensive assets will be returned to you.
- Use A Signal Blocking Pouch
Much like putting your key in a metal box, you can buy specialised signal blocking pouches that will stop your key from being manipulated when in your home with your car parked outside. They stop signals from being transmitted from your key and so criminals can’t even detect your keyless technology in the first place.
These pouches do have their drawbacks, however, so do try to use them in conjunction with other good practice like keeping your key away from the front door and windows. Some experts are doubtful of their ability to block signals in their entirety and think that some are simply just gimmicks.
What Else Can You Do?
A good rule of thumb is to keep abreast of any technology or software updates that your car can have installed that will help keep it safe. Also, don’t forget that simple acts of vigilance can be a huge help in the deterrence of crime and car theft. While car manufacturers are obviously working to improve the technology so their customers are not susceptible to thieves, car owners themselves should also share the responsibility of keeping this type of crime to a minimum.
Ultimately, if you are very worried about your car and the keyless technology it has, contact your manufacturer to see if the system as a whole can be disabled in your car, so as to avoid the problem altogether.