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Keyless car theft: how to avoid becoming a victim

PUBLISHED: 08:00 25 May 2019

Thieves work in pairs using gadgets to hijack a car key signal from a car parked outside a house with the key inside  Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Thieves work in pairs using gadgets to hijack a car key signal from a car parked outside a house with the key inside Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Archant

You don't need a key to steal a car; anyone who's ever watched a Hollywood film could tell you that. But, in an age when cars are increasingly locked not with an old-fashioned key but with a keyless entry system, things are a little different from the hot-wiring scenes we're used to seeing in films.

Keyless entry systems are great for convenience but there has been a 48.7pc increase in keyless car thefts over the past five years  Picture: Getty Images/iStockphotoKeyless entry systems are great for convenience but there has been a 48.7pc increase in keyless car thefts over the past five years Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Keyless car theft is on the rise, with a 48.7pc increase seen over the past five years. According to figures provided by the Association of British Insurers (ABI), the cost of car thefts went up to £376 million in 2018, an increase of 29pc compared to 2017.

In Norfolk, there were a total of 2,739 vehicle crimes - including theft of and from a car - reported to police between February 2018 and January 2019, with 222 of those reported in the latter month alone.

Norwich East had the highest number of vehicle crimes reported to the police, at 320, followed by Norwich North with 228, Thetford with 187 and Norwich South with 157.

Working in pairs, thieves use two gadgets called a relay amplifier and relay transmitter to hijack a car key signal from a car parked outside a house with the key inside. Doing this, they're quickly and quietly able to trick the car into thinking that the real key is being used, thereby gaining entry to the vehicle and driving off in it.

A steering wheel lock is a great deterrent to would-be keyless car thieves  Picture: Getty Images/iStockphotoA steering wheel lock is a great deterrent to would-be keyless car thieves Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

While car manufacturers are still developing fool proof keyless systems, what can you do to make sure you don't become one of the growing number of victims of this type of crime?

A-Plan Insurance has some suggestions on measures you can take to keep your car safe:

Switch the key off, if possible

Simple measures can be taken to reduce keyless car theft, such as not leaving your handbag by the front door  Picture: Getty Images/iStockphotoSimple measures can be taken to reduce keyless car theft, such as not leaving your handbag by the front door Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Some car keys can be turned off when they're not needed, which prevents thieves being able to hijack their signal. It might not be immediately apparent that your key has this type of car key programming - it could be that it's a combination of key presses rather than a simple on/off button - so have a look in your owner's manual to find out whether it's possible.

Be careful where you keep the key

If it's not possible to switch your key off, then you can at least be careful where you keep it. For starters, don't put it in an obvious place such as on a windowsill or by the door, where it can easily be spotted from outside.

Simply keeping it in a metal tin should help keep your car safe by blocking the signal from the key, but you can also invest in what's known as a Faraday pouch - a small pouch made from materials that block the signal (test it to ensure that it works by standing next to your car and trying to unlock it with the key while it's in the pouch).

Krushal Patel, branch manager of A-Plan Insurance Norwich, says: "It sounds obvious, but all the usual advice on preventing car theft still applies. Keeping your car in the garage is ideal, if you have one, but if not, standard security measures such as steering wheel locks or a post for your driveway will help act as a deterrent to would-be thieves.

"Keep your eyes peeled for suspicious behaviour in your neighbourhood, and consider investing in a tracking device for your vehicle."

Even the most diligent car owners could end up becoming a victim of keyless car theft, and a tracker will dramatically increase the chances of your car being found if the worst comes to the worst. Always mention any additional security measures when going through a vehicle insurance quotation as it could save you money on your premium.

The Norwich branch of A-Plan is at 1 Surrey Street, Norwich, NR1 3NX, call 01603 863020, or visit www.aplan.co.uk/norwich

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