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Latest News Keyless car theft | What do you need to know?

Keyless car theft | What do you need to know?

Keyless car theft | What do you need to know?

There has been a sharp rise in the number of cars being stolen across the UK.

In fact, a car is stolen every few minutes, and the vast majority of them are never returned to their owners. Most of them end up in so-called chop shops – black-market operations where the vehicles are stripped of their parts, which are then sold on to unscrupulous mechanics.

And with only about 5% of car thefts resulting in arrests by the police, the criminals who play the numbers game know that the stats are on their side.

What’s driving the rise in car theft?

Cars that are no longer in production can be hard to get parts for legally, but problems with the global supply chain (caused in part by the Ukraine war and the impact of Covid-19) as well as soaring inflationary pressures mean that spare parts for all models of vehicles have become harder to source affordably and quickly.

Long lead times on popular models of cars, as well as difficulty in purchasing some car makes in certain countries, also accounts for a rise in theft to order crimes. This is where criminals steal a specific make, model, and specification of car to order, which is then shipped abroad and sold on the black-market.

Much of the rise in vehicle thefts can be attributed to keyless car theft (also known as “relay theft”). As the name suggests, this involves stealing a vehicle without needing the key to do so.


How does keyless vehicle theft work?

Keyless cars work by using a short-range transmitter that sends a signal to the vehicle.

As long as you have the device in your pocket or a bag, you can open the door at a click of a button. Without the signal, the doors remain locked.

There are variations though, some “keyless cars” aren’t actually keyless – they may have keyless entry but you might still need the key turn the engine on.

It’s no surprise that as technology advances, so does criminals’ ability to use it to their advantage. Keyless car theft involves two people working together to trick the car into thinking that the key is nearby, and therefore allowing them to open it – one with a relay amplifier and one with a transmitter. A lot of keyless car theft involves thieves “stealing” the signal from car fobs inside peoples’ homes.

The amplifier intercepts the signal from the key fob, and it sends the signal to the transmitter which is with the other thief near the car. The transmitter tricks the car into thinking the key is nearby and unlocks. If it also has keyless ignition then the engine can also be started in the same way. This is often a very quick process, with  cars being stolen in a matter of seconds.


What are the most stolen cars?

According to the DVLA, the most stolen car in 2022 was the Ford Fiesta. Other vehicles that saw large numbers of thefts included the Ford Focus, the Volkswagen Golf, and the Vauxhall Astra and Corsa. Bear in mind though, that it is generally the higher-end models (the Ford ST models and the R and GTI models for Volkswagen)  that are more desirable to thieves.

Although it’s true that some vehicles are easier to steal than others, bear in mind that popular models are likely to be higher on the list of stolen vehicles simply because there are more of them about to steal.

But when it comes to keyless theft, a number of makes of car are being especially targeted.

Thatcham Research – a vehicle-safety research organisation funded by the insurance industry – reported last year that police and insurers were seeing a spike in thefts of certain models of Lexus and Toyota. Thanks to some of the thieves being caught in the act, the advanced methods of theft targeting these models has been identified.

As far as Land Rovers are concerned, it’s thought that thousands were stolen across the UK last year. Many of them were Range Rovers stolen in towns and cities but other models – including Defenders and Discoveries – were targeted in rural areas.

As with the rise in vehicle theft more generally, the spike in Land Rover theft is thought to be due in large part to the difficulty in sourcing spare parts legally, the second-hand value of the make, and the long wait time on new vehicles.


What is the effect on the insurance market?

Some motorists will find that it is harder for them to get car insurance if they have a certain make or model of vehicle.

For example, at the moment it’s becoming particularly tricky to insure a Land Rover, and the manufacturer has even stopped offering its own insurance due to the rise in thefts.

In general, there’s an increased cost to insurers when vehicle crime goes up, therefore premiums for all car insurance customers will increase to account for this.


How to protect your vehicle from theft

There are a number of things you can do to make life harder for thieves, and to tackle the scourge of keyless car crime in particular:

Keep your distance: Try to keep your car and the key fob as far apart as possible. For example, when you get home don’t leave the device in your porch or near a front window. If you park on the street, consider leaving your car a little further down the road rather than right outside your property. The further the distance between car and your key fob, the harder it will be for thieves to steal your car.

Use a Faraday pouch: This has a metallic lining that blocks the signal emitted by your unlocking device, preventing thieves from intercepting it. If you don’t have a Farady pouch, consider storing your device in something like a metal toolbox stored under the stairs or a tin kept in a kitchen cupboard.

Use locks and barriers: A steering lock is an easy visual deterrent – although they are not insurmountable to determined thieves, they can put off a someone who’s looking to make an immediate getaway. And consider physical barriers – installing a lockable post that you can put up once your car’s safely on the drive is another way to deter would-be thieves.

Don’t go keyless: It might feel like a shame to disable one of most advanced features of your vehicle, but with some vehicles you can turn off the keyless technology.


What to do if your car is stolen

The first thing is to tell the police, making sure you give them all the details such as the make, model, registration number, and where it was taken from. Let them know if you have a tracker in the vehicle, and mention anything that might make the car stand out – any modifications, for example.

You should also let your insurer know what’s happened – they’ll be able to talk you through the information they require from you.

If your car is on finance, you’ll also need to let the lender know as soon as possible that it’s been stolen.

If you bought your insurance policy through Alan Boswell Group, you can talk to our highly experienced claims team, who will offer help and support through what can be a very upsetting and stressful time for you. You can speak to one of our friendly team by calling 01603 218099.