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Car theft is on the rise – how can you minimise the risk?

Car theft is on the rise – how can you minimise the risk?

Relay theft

Recent statistics show that although the latest cars might have plenty of amazing hi-tech features, they can let you down when it comes to security.

One of the main problems appears to be that criminals are exploiting weaknesses in the keyless entry systems most modern cars have. In other words, those cars which only need a fob, or other keyless device, to allow entry.


Car theft up 56%

The figures speak for themselves. Latest stats from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reveal that car theft rose 56% between 2016 and 2017.

A total of 89,000 cars were reported as being stolen in 2017, an increase of 33,000 vehicles on 2013, a huge rise of 56%.


What is ‘relay’ theft?

The problem appears to be with the software that cars now need. Thieves use easily accessible technology, usually radio transmitters, to capture the signal from a car’s fob key in ‘relay boxes’.

One thief needs to be close to the fob, the source of the signal, which could be by simply standing outside your kitchen window, for example. They then relay the signal to the other thief holding the other transmitter by your car.

The car’s security is then breached as the vehicle thinks the real fob key is being used.

Less than a minute to drive a car away

There’s plenty of video footage available from the police showing the whole process can take less than a minute, leaving the vehicle undamaged and ready to be driven off.

According to research from the German Automobile Club (GAC) vulnerable cars include the popular Ford Galaxy and Kia Optima.

Tips for avoiding relay theft

Here are for important tips the police give for keeping vehicles with keyless entry systems more secure:

  1. Keep your access fob key well away from household entry points and check with the manufacturer to see if it can be turned off when needed.


  1. Ask your car’s manufacturer if there are any software updates for your car. These may include improved security for more modern versions.


  1. Use a Thatcham-approved steering lock that completely covers the steering wheel, not just part of it as some do.


  1. Thatcham-approved trackers and immobilisers fitted to the vehicle are also great thief deterrents, for obvious reasons.

Fob signal blockers

You can also buy cases for your fob which block the signal so that it can’t be picked up by criminals.

There’s plenty available, but of varying quality. If you buy one, check it by simply placing your keyless fob in it and then try to open and start your car.


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Published 17th April 2018