June 13, 2019 at 11:38 AM
According to figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the number of car thefts in the UK increased by 9% in 2018 compared to the previous year.
In total, 113,037 offences of “theft or unauthorised taking of a motor vehicle” were logged by police. Keyless car theft is considered to be one of the biggest reasons for the rise.
Keyless entry technology was developed to provide car owners with the convenience of being able to open and start their vehicle without needing to take the key out of their bag or pocket.
Originally, it was only available on premium models; however, the technology has filtered down so that many less expensive cars can now be accessed without a key - something that has certainly contributed to the increase in keyless car thefts.
Does My Car Have Keyless Entry?
A keyless entry car is one that can be opened without touching a button on the key fob. You can simply walk towards the car and the fob will emit a short-range 'friendly' radio signal.
If the car is in range (usually within a couple of metres), it will recognise the signal and unlock the doors. Similarly, once the fob is inside the car, you can press the 'Start' button to engage the ignition.
Research conducted by General German Automobile Club (ADAC) tested 237 keyless cars and found that 230 of them could be unlocked and started without the owner's key fob.
How Does Keyless Entry Car Theft Work?
Keyless entry car theft, also known as relay car theft, typically requires two thieves working together using a relay transmitter and a relay amplifier.
While one person stands near the car with the transmitter, the other will walk around the perimeter of the house with the amplifier in search of the key fob.
If the key is close enough to the car, the amplifier will pick up the signal and transfer it to the transmitter which will then act as the key, essentially tricking the car into unlocking the doors.
It's possible for the whole process of unlocking and stealing the car to take less than 60 seconds and it can be done in relative silence.
The unprecedented rise in keyless car thefts isn't going unnoticed by car makers. Richard Billyeald of Thatcham Research, said "manufacturers are already working on new systems. A few new models already have setups that aren't vulnerable to relay attacks. The functionality is the same, but they cannot be fooled by relay devices."
How Do I Keep My Keyless Car Safe?
There are a number of measures you can take to prevent your keyless car from being targeted and stolen.
INVEST IN A FARADAY BAG
A Faraday bag uses layers of metallic material to block radio signals. If you put your key fob in one, it would prevent opportunistic car thieves from being able to successfully use relay devices.
Similarly, you could use a tin or aluminium container. Whichever product you use, it's important that you test its effectiveness. Take your key fob out to the car in the Faraday bag or metal tin and see if you can still get into your car.
DISABLE KEYLESS ENTRY SYSTEM
If you're more worried about the potential of having your car stolen by keyless entry technology, compared to the convenience it provides, it might be worthwhile disabling the feature altogether.
Some wireless signals from key fobs can be turned off, although the process isn't always obvious and can require a specific sequence of buttons to be pressed.
Even if you don't want the feature turned off permanently, you could make sure it's not active overnight to eliminate the risk of keyless car thieves striking while you're asleep.
The owner's manual should provide details of how to disable your car's keyless entry system if it's possible. Alternatively, you can contact the manufacturer for more information.
STRATEGICALLY PARK YOUR CAR
The signal from your key fob is only strong enough to reach a couple of meters, so if your car is parked further away from your keys - for example, on the road or in a garage - the keyless entry technology won't work.
Of course, parking in a secure garage has its own advantages. Namely, the fact that your car will be out of sight and therefore less likely to be targeted by thieves.
STRATEGICALLY PLACE YOUR KEYS
If you park your car on a driveway outside your house, it's important to place your keys (and any spares) far enough away from the car so that the signal from the fob won't work.
It's always recommended to keep your keys away from the front door and windows to reduce the risk of your car being stolen.
In addition, you might consider adding motion-sensing lights to the area around your car. These can act as a deterrent to any potential car thieves.
INVEST IN A STEERING WHEEL LOCK
A steering wheel lock is a bar-like object that you place on your wheel and lock into place with a key. It prevents the wheel from being turned, rendering the car useless to thieves.
It acts as a visible deterrent and provides extra security. Similarly, you could add locked gates or barriers to your driveway to make it difficult to actually drive away in your car, even if thieves manage to unlock it.
Add A Tracking Device To Assist Recovery
If you're unfortunate enough to be the victim of a car theft, adding a tracking device to your car will increase the chances of it being recovered.
Over the past decade, only 45.31% of stolen vehicles have been recovered by the police. In contrast, security company, Tracker, claims to have traced the location of 96% of stolen cars using its tracking device.
Will My Insurer Pay Out For Keyless Car Theft?
Insurance claims for car thefts increased by 12% in 2018 to 56,000 compared to 2017 with experts firmly placing the blame for the rise on keyless entry theft.
According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), insurers paid out a massive £376 million to policy holders claiming a stolen car or thefts from a car.
If you can prove that your car was stolen without the use of your keys, it's highly likely that you will receive a pay out from your insurance company.