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Keyless Cars – Relay Theft Warning

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Keyless Theft or Relay Theft continues to be a growing issue.

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Keyless Theft or Relay Theft continues to be a growing issue. In fact vehicle security experts estimate 68 per cent of stolen cars are now taken after being "electronically compromised".

What is keyless theft?

The process criminals use to steal a car via keyless theft – also known as relay theft – is relatively simple. They use a relay amplifier and a relay transmitter, identify a house with a targeted car parked outside and, by using these gadgets, can detect whether the car features keyless entry. If the car key is close enough the amplifier will detect its signal, amplify it and send it to the transmitter.

This transmitter then effectively becomes the key, and tricks the car into thinking the real key is nearby, whereupon the thieves are able to open the car, get in and drive away. The whole process can take as little as 60 seconds and can be completed in near silence.

How to avoid keyless theft – top tips

Keyless theft sounds almost like the perfect crime – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t steps you can take to stop it from happening to you.

Don’t forget the basics

Ensure your car is properly locked, parked in a well lit area, and keep keys far away from doors and windows. This will minimize the chances a criminal will be able to find and amplify the key’s signal and is general good practice. Owners can keep their car keys in a metal tin to block signals.

Can you switch off your key?

Investigate whether it’s possible to switch your key’s signal off, as some offer this function – though it’s not always obvious, requiring a double button press or a combination of pushes on the key. Check your manual or speak to your vehicle dealer to find out if your key has this function.

Physical barriers

You could also purchase an aftermarket security device such as a Thatcham approved steering wheel lock, a driveway parking post, or even a wheel clamp. Even if the thieves are able to access and start your car, these should prevent them from driving away – and many criminals will consider bypassing these.

Signal-blocking pouches

Consider purchasing a signal blocker pouch / wallet to keep your car key in. These pouches contain signal-blocking materials that stop your key transmitting its code, preventing criminals from being able to detect and amplify the signal. There are numerous types now on the market. (owners should, test whether a pouch they’ve purchased works by putting the key in it and ensuring the car doesn’t unlock when they stand next to it.)

Further Advice

Other steps you can take to keep your car safe include checking if there are any software updates for the car itself, remaining vigilant for unusual activity in your area and having an aftermarket immobiliser or tracker fitted. Carmakers themselves are working on countermeasures to combat the issue of keyless theft, with new frequency technologies, software and keys among the developments taking place. If in any doubt please contact your vehicle dealer.

Message Sent By
Willie Clark (NHWN, Community Engagement Officer, NW Scotland)

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