Keyless car theft leaves owners mystified

keyless pouchesOn Friday 19th July, a surprised car owner on Ashton Road discovered that their BMW M3 had been stolen from their driveway. The owner was still in possession of both sets of keys. The victim posted on social media: “It’s a pretty noisy car to start and drive off, so god knows how they did it.”

Such keyless car thefts are the wave crime to hit car owners. The Association of British Insurers reported a national rise in keyless car thefts to The Times: 16,000 insurance claims were settled within the first three months of 2019. The cost totalled £108m, an increase of 22% from last year.

In the last five years, two confirmed keyless car thefts involving relay devices have occurred in East Northants. According to the police, one of the vehicles was recovered.

Keyless car theft is a new technological approach undertaken by thieves. Usually two relay boxes are used to boost the signal of a car fob inside a house, so the theft often involves two perpetrators. One relay box is held near the house whilst the other is planted near the car door. As the vehicle is started with a button, this allows them to unlock the car using a recognisable signal and drive off while the owner is still in possession of the fob.

A spokesman from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders told The Times: “Technology can only do so much… we call for action to prevent the open sale of devices used by criminals.”

Simple and inexpensive Faraday pouches are a sound way to prevent further keyless car theft. They act similarly to Faraday cages, which block signals from car fobs and contactless cards using special materials and sewing techniques. This means that there is no signal for criminals to track. Some car manufacturers have installed features that mean a car key will no longer broadcast after it has not been moved for a set amount of time.

Thatcham Research, a research firm, published findings that Mazda 3s, Volvo V-60s and Toyota RAV-4s are vulnerable to thefts using relays. However, Volvo, Toyota and Mazda have concluded that they will invest in higher security measures, in order to protect their customers. Tracker Security has concluded that BMW X5s, 3 and 5 Series, and Mercedes-Benz C and E classes are the most likely to be stolen.

In an interview with Whatcar? Magazine, David Jamieson, police commissioner for the West Midlands said: “Last year, 7452 cars were stolen in the West Midlands; that’s nearly three times as many as in 2015.” He has begun a national campaign calling for car-makers to increase the security they provide.

In East Northamptonshire there have been three key-less car thefts since 2017, and Police have made two arrests in connection to this type of car theft. To the relief of the Oundle car owner, two men were arrested by Cambridgeshire police, on 30th July, in connection with the BMW M3 stolen from Ashton Road.

Millicent Riordan
December 4, 2019