Thieves are gaining access to vehicles using a special device that interferes with keyless entry systems. Read what you can do to protect yourself.
How do they do it? Burglars can get into your car or truck with the help of a device that mimics the operation of the keyless entry fob on your keychain. And as more modern vehicles feature this convenience, there’s more opportunity for thieves to break into, and in some cases, drive off with these cars.
This situation isn’t new—it’s been happening for a few years now. But it’s in the public eye recently thanks to law enforcement and insurance company awareness efforts. CarMax got involved too—providing some of its own vehicles for testing these devices.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) conducted its own non-scientific tests, and we offered up the cars and trucks for variety, since we offer nearly every make and model of vehicle. The results showed these devices work pretty well; once inside, cars equipped with push-button starters might indeed be started and driven away.
Roger Morris, chief communications officer with the NICB, says thieves tend to target more expensive vehicles, because they’re more likely to have keyless entry systems.
With the average cost of a luxury-type vehicle averaging upwards of $30,000, damage and theft can hurt you in the wallet. “Any kind of loss like that is a considerable inconvenience, and a considerable cost to replace,” Morris says.
Car theft in the US is down overall, from a high of 1.6 million vehicles stolen in 1991, so that today, annual thefts total around 700,000. Morris says this decrease is due in large part to advances in automobile technology. But there’s been an uptick in vehicle thefts in the last few years, and while keyless entry devices can’t be definitively as the cause, CarMax and the NICB want car owners to be vigilant about protecting their vehicles. “Unless people catch car thieves in the act of using one of these devices on their vehicles, they won’t know what happened if they find their car missing,” Morris says. “They might think it’s been towed.”
What Can You Do To Protect Yourself?
- Don’t leave expensive items in your car. If it’s not in the trunk, left out on a seat, or in your glovebox, it can’t be stolen.
- Join or start a neighborhood group. If there isn’t a neighborhood association where you live, start one! Join or create an online bulletin board-type group to keep yourself and your neighbors posted about all kinds of activity in your area. Having an active neighborhood association makes it easier to build a relationship with local law enforcement and learn how you can protect your vehicle and your belongings.
- If your car is broken into, report it. Law enforcement can better focus attention on neighborhoods where break-ins are occurring when they know about these incidents. Plus, you’ll need a police report if you intend to file an insurance claim.