Relay theft: how to protect your car against it

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Find out more about relay theft and how you can protect your car from opportunist thieves

As more and more vehicles now have keyless entry, thieves have to get creative.

According to police data, there has been a 30% increase in car thefts over the past three years. 

Some say that this could be down to criminal gangs catching up with car technology and learning how to get around modern security systems with a method called 'relay theft'.

A Freedom of Information request put forward by the RAC showed that a total of 65,783 vehicles were reported stolen to 40 police forces in England and Wales in 2013, but by 2016 it had risen to 85,688.

 

What is relay theft?

Theft relay occurs when two thieves work together to break into cars which have keyless entry systems.

The thieves can use equipment to capture signals emitted by certain keys which are used to start new vehicles.

One thief stands by the car with a transmitter, while the other stands by the house with another, which picks up the signal from the key which is usually kept near the front door on a table or hook.

This is then relayed to the other transmitter by the vehicle, causing it to think the key is in close proximity and prompting it to open. Thieves can then drive the vehicle away and quickly replace the locks and entry devices.

Which cars are vulnerable to relay theft?

Technically, any vehicle with keyless entry could be vulnerable to relay theft.

Research conducted by The Sun in May 2017 found vehicles from 30 manufacturers could be unlocked with a device.

These included cars from BMW, Ford, Audi, Land Rover, Hyundai and VW. How can you protect your vehicle against relay theft?

According to research by the Institute of the Motor Industry, over half of motorists are worried their car could be accessed and stolen by remote thieves.

Fifty per cent of people surveyed weren’t aware that their car might be vulnerable to cyber attacks, and while drivers shouldn’t become paranoid about the safety of their car it’s always a good idea to take precautions.

Keep keys away from the door

This has long been a necessary precaution in order to avoid car theft, but it’s important to make sure that your key is as far from the front door as possible so its signal can’t be picked up.

As hacking devices get more sophisticated, they may be able to pick up signals from further away.

This may seem a bit excessive, but a metal box could be the best place to store your keys overnight as the metal could block the signal being detected.

Lorna Connelly, head of claims at Admiral said: “Unfortunately, we do see a claims from customers who have had their cars stolen due to relay theft and it’s a problem that we would advise motorists with keyless cars to be aware of.

“Despite progresses in anti-theft technology, thieves are always coming up with new ways to make off with your vehicle.

“We are urging all of our customers to keep their keys a safe distance from the door and consider storing them in a metal box. While this may seem like an extreme solution, relay theft is an extreme practice.”

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