Find out what Keyless car theft is & how to prevent your keyless entry car being stolen. Learn if your car is keyless entry & what car models are at risk as keyless car theft (relay theft) is a crime on the rise.
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A recent report from consumer group Which? found that four of the five best-selling models of cars in the UK are all at risk from “keyless theft”.
As the UK’s largest trade association for locksmiths, many of our members are auto locksmiths so have knowledge with car keys and locks.
What is Keyless Car Theft?
Keyless car theft (aka Relay Theft) is where the signal from a key for a so-called “Keyless entry” car is captured by somebody standing outside the victim’s house using a device.
Step 1 – The device transmits the signal to somebody else standing by the victim’s car.
Step 2– This then fools the car into thinking the key is near it, and so it allows the doors to be opened and ignition to be started.
How far do thieves need to be from my car keys?
Thieves only need to be within a few metres from your car keys to capture the signal. We will tell you how you can stop thieves capturing your car key signal shortly.
Relay Crime is NOT new
Examples of ‘keyless’ or ‘relay’ attacks on vehicles aren’t new.
“Keyless car theft can take only 20-30 seconds”
Sadly our locksmith members do frequently hear of cases of lock picks, electronic devices, key cloning gadgets and other tools being used by opportunist thieves.
What device is used in Relay Car Theft?
Relay crime is when a certain type of specialist electronic equipment captures the signal from the Key and transmits it to a receiver that somebody standing next to the car has.
Is My Car Keyless Entry?
If you have to push a button on your car keys to enter your car, you are not at risk of being “hacked”.
Only cars with a keyless entry system can be stolen using so called “relay” equipment.
Keyless entry cars allow the driver to unlock and start the car with the key fob still in their pocket. Once in the car, the driver can press a button to start the engine.
Car Models at threat to relay theft
Any car with keyless entry is at a threat to relay crime.
Popular models found to such as a Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Golf, Nissan Qashqai and Ford Focus are all at risk.
This was reported by the BBC in their Hundreds of popular cars ‘at risk of keyless theft article which included research analysed data on keyless – or “relay” attacks on cars.
A study was carried out by General German Automobile Club (ADAC), who tested 237 keyless cars and found 230 vehicles could all be unlocked and started using Relay Crime.
How long does it take to steal the vehicle?
Keyless car theft can take only 20-30 seconds.
Keyless Entry Cars Tested Against Keyless Car Theft by Thatcham
In 2019 Thatcham launched a security rating for keyless entry car models and how they performed against relay theft, below are the results.
PASSED Vehicle Models of Keyless Car Theft Test
The following keyless entry car models PASSED Thatchams relay attack test and were given a superior security rating:
|Keyless Entry Vehicle Model||Pass Or Fail
|BMW 1 Series / 7 Series / 8 Series||Pass||Superior|
|BMW X6 / X7||Pass||Superior|
|Land Rover Evoque||Pass||Superior|
FAILED Vehicle Models of Keyless Car Theft Test
The below keyless entry car models FAILED Thatchams relay attack test and were given a poor security rating:
|Keyless Entry Vehicle Model||Pass Or Fail
Prevent Keyless Car Theft ( Quick Tips )
To protect your keyless entry from being a victim of relay theft, here some are some quick tips:
1. Keep your car keys safe – Use a blocking pouch
If you have a ‘keyless entry’ car then make sure your keys are kept well away from doors and windows.
Keep your car key in a screened box/tin/bag so that the signal can’t be ‘grabbed’ from the outside and used to open your car – and don’t forget to do the same with any spare set!
Use a Signal Blocking Pouch (Faraday Bag)
Signal Blocking pouches can stop access to your vehicle by blocking your car key fob from transmitting its code to the vehicle, as the pouches are lined with layers of metallic material.
Fact: Signal Blocking pouches are also known as Faraday Bags or Pouches
Putting your keys in a signal blocking pouch will stop any thieves from being able to amplify the signal used in relay theft.
How much do signal blocking pouches cost?
These pouches are cheap to purchase as well, from as low as £5, they can also be used to block WI-FI and Bluetooth signals on Mobile Phones.
2. Turn off Keyless Fob’s Wireless Signal
Do you have a keyless fob? Wireless signals on some keyless fobs can be switched off.
To turn off you should look in your cars manual to see if you can do this.
If you can’t find anything in your manual about turning off your fob you should contact the vehicle’s manufacturer.
3. Use a Steering Wheel Lock or Car Alarm
Yes, we know, you threw out the wheel lock back in the 90’s.
Most modern car thieves are equipped with laptops rather than hand tools, so mechanical devices – such as steering wheel locks – can be a real deterrent.
When purchasing a security device look out for 3rd party approval such as Sold Secure, whereby the product is tested against tools used by criminals such as Crowbars and Angle Grinders.
An alarm can reduce your car insurance
If you haven’t got a factory-fitted alarm you may be able to reduce the cost of your car insurance by fitting a car alarm.
Check with your insurer that the alarm is approved, as the quality can differ with car alarms.
And the single most cost-effective way to reduce your insurance premium is to fit an immobiliser, just make sure it’s professionally fitted.
4. Re-programme your keys
If you buy a second-hand vehicle, there is a risk that you may not be given all of the sets of car keys.
If you’re unsure, get car keys reprogrammed so previous owners can’t access the vehicle.
Warning: Although be warned programming of some vehicles keys can be quite expensive, especially if you go direct to the manufacturers, make you hire an auto locksmith who is usually cheaper
5. Park defensively…
Parking your car in a garage overnight is ideal but make sure you ask an MLA locksmith to undertake a security check.
If you’re parking on your driveway, park defensively i.e. as close to your property as you can so that access is made difficult.
Extra Security to Consider
Consider fitting outdoor motion detector lighting and CCTV, and if you park on the street ensure it’s in an area that is well lit.
6. Keep your vehicle tidy
We’ve all heard it, but how many still don’t follow the advice.
Make sure to keep the inside of your vehicle clear of clutter, try and hide any electrical items such as Sat Navs & Mobile phones.
Try to keep your glove box empty and why not leave your glove box open to show you’ve got nothing to hide.
Don’t forget to hide any signs of high-cost equipment as well, such as the marks that Sat-Nav suction cups leave on your windscreen!
7. Get your windows etched
Etching the last seven digits of your Vehicle Identity Number (or registration) onto the windows, headlights and mirrors means anybody who tries to alter your vehicle’s identity will have a tough job.
8. If you lose your keys
Should you have lost your car keys then we recommend contacting a local MLA auto locksmith, who are experts with vehicle locks and keys.
They will make sure that only the keys you have cannot be used by the thief, removing all others your vehicles database, this will stop any stolen keys being used.
READ MORE: 5 ways to replace lost car keys
Keyless Car Theft – Frequently Asked Questions
Will My Car Insurance Cover Keyless Car theft?
With car theft payouts at a record high in 2019 rumour has it that relay crime is a cause behind this rise.
Most Car insurance policies will cover theft if your car is stolen because of keyless theft, but they may require proof that you still have all available keys (we recommend checking with your insurer).
Are Car Manufacturers doing anything to Prevent Keyless Car Theft?
Yes, some car manufacturers are introducing preventative measures to help prevent keyless cars from being stolen.
Kia are providing their own faraday bag that helps block the car signal.
Ford Focus, Fiesta, BMW, Audi & Mercedes have introduced Motion Sensor Key Fobs. A Motion sensor car fob will go into sleep mode after being inactive for 40 seconds, which prevents any criminals from getting the cars signal.
Are Vans also at threat to Keyless Theft?
Yes, in 2018 there was a increase in keyless van thefts. The most popular van model stolen were Ford Transits.
What is the future of Relay theft?
Last year our Managing Director Steffan George met with West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson to meet with car manufacturers to call for more action to tackle vehicle thefts.
We recommend taking the action as covered on this page to prevent your car from being a victim of relay theft.
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