Keyless car theft, also known as relay theft, is a worrying trend which is quickly growing in the United Kingdom. New technology is giving criminals easy opportunities to take lucrative possessions. Traditionally, car thieves have needed to steal car keys or physically break into a vehicle in order to take it. However, now criminals are able to steal a vehicle without even needed the cars keys or by forcing themselves inside. Instead, they are using relay technology to unlock and start the engine simply by intercepting a signal given off by a nearby set of car keys. This is a major problem, but there are steps you can take to ensure that you do not become a victim.
What is keyless car theft?
Relay theft requires two individuals to work as a pair to pick up a signal from a nearby key and relay it to a targeted vehicle. It is important to note that relay theft can only work on vehicles which use keyless entry. These particular vehicles only require the car key to be within a close proximity for the car to be unlocked. Vehicles of this type are typically expensive and seen as luxurious and so, they are even more likely to be targeted by thieves for financial gain.
Keyless entry works by using a signal connection between the vehicle and the keys. Using a pair of relay machines, it is possible to pick up the signal and manipulate it. Criminals use two relay devices, or transmitters, to perform the robbery. The first person will stand within a close proximity to the key. Typically, the keys will be left close to an entry point in a home, however, in theory, a theft of this nature can occur anywhere. The first device will pick up the signal from the nearby key. The signal will then be passed from the first relay machine onto a second machine which is positioned next to the targeted vehicle. If the signal has been passed on successfully, the car will open and the engine will start.
Which cars are vulnerable?
All vehicles with keyless entry are technically vulnerable to being a target of relay theft. If your keys are left in an area which can be located using a relay machine, it is possible that the signal can be manipulated. In 2017, The Sun Newspaper found that vehicles from over 30 car manufacturers are vulnerable to relay theft, including leading manufacturers such as Ford, Audi, BMW, Volkswagen and Land Rover.
Keyless car theft prevention
Keep your keys somewhere secure
For relay theft to work, thieves need to be able to access the signal being emitted from your keys. One of the best ways to prevent this is to keep your keys as far away from any entry point to your home as possible. This will make it more difficult for the transmitting devices to intercept the signal. While the majority of relay theft takes place when a vehicle is parked at a property, it can, in theory, happen anywhere. Therefore, it may be sensible to purchase an RFID-blocking wallet which stops any other devices being able to manipulate the signal.
For extra precaution, another step you can take is to keep your keys in a metal storage box while at home which also blocks the signal from being manipulated.
Keep your car in a garage
If you have a garage, storing your car inside can be a very effective deterrent from thieves. Your car will be out of sight to any opportunist thieves who are looking to specifically target vehicles which are known to be vulnerable to relay theft. In addition, there is also a physical barrier between the criminals and your car, meaning they will also have to break and enter a property in order to access your vehicle, which will often put off would-be thieves.
Use a car cover to protect your vehicle
Another physical barrier that you can put in between your car and a thief is a car cover. Often, relay thieves are looking to act very quickly and want to commit a theft in less than one minute. A video released by West Midlands Police in 2017 shows that it can take just 23 seconds, from the moment of the criminals stepping out of their own vehicle to unlock a targeted car. By placing a car cover over your car, it will take considerably longer to access your vehicle, which makes it far less likely for thieves to target your vehicle. For extra safety, you can also purchase a car locking kit which will make it even more difficult to get into your vehicle.
Install a tracking device on your car
One of the main motivations for relay theft is to sell a vehicle on for financial gain. Unlike joyriding thefts, it is unlikely that the stolen vehicle will be abandoned. Consequently, it is a good idea to place a tracking device on your car so that you can locate it after it has been taken. If you decide to install a tracking device, ensure that you place it in an area where there is no interference or obstacles which block satellite signals. Usually, the best place to install a tracking device is under a seat, under the vehicle using a magnet or inside the rear bumper.
Secure your car with a wheel lock
Fitting a wheel lock or clamp to your vehicle is another barrier which will keep your car out of the hands of a criminal. Although a thief may still be able to unlock your car using relay technology, they will be unable to drive away as the steering wheel will be tightly secured behind a wheel lock. It is also advisable that you purchase a wheel lock which covers the whole steering wheel, rather than just partially covering it as these are typically much harder to bypass.