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Keyless theft is ‘harsh reality’, says Tracker

Car theft is on the rise again, with keyless technology a prime reason for the increase.

Keyless theft

Tracker has revealed that 88% of all stolen vehicles it recovered in 2018 were stolen without using the owner’s keys

So says Tracker as it publishes figures showing that 88% of all stolen vehicles it recovered in 2018 were stolen without using the owner’s keys; up from 80% in 2017 and 66% in 2016.

The figures – which come just a week after latest Home Office data figures show  motor vehicle theft has risen 49% in five years – are said to confirm that keyless theft is not just a threat, but a very harsh reality and have been published as new research reveals that four of the five best selling models in the UK are susceptible to keyless theft.

Tests by the German General Automobile Club (ADAC) on 237 keyless cars found that thieves can easily trick 230 of them into thinking that your key is closer than it really is, enabling them to unlock and start your car.

As revealed by Which? the affected cars includes keyless versions of four of the five bestselling cars in the UK.

The only cars that ADAC could not unlock or start using the relay attack are from Jaguar Land Rover. These cars are the latest versions of the Land Rover Discovery, the Land Rover Range Rover and the Jaguar i-Pace, all of which have been tested by ADAC in the past year.

In response, Which? has published advice on six ways to protect vehicles from theft:

1. Never leave valuables in plain sight, even if you’re only going to be away from your car for a short time.

2. Invest in a steering wheel lock. Even cheap ones will act as a deterrent, but a lock accredited by the police security initiative Secured By Design will be much harder for thieves to break – these cost around £120

3. Consider where you park at night, when cars are far more likely to be stolen. If you can’t park in a locked garage, consider investing in CCTV for your driveway or park in a well-lit area on the street.

4. Double check your doors are actually locked when using the remote-locking button on your key, in case thieves are trying to block the signal from your remote.

5. Always keep your key out of sight at home and as far away from your front door as possible. If you have a keyless car, consider buying a metal case for your key fob as this can block the signal produced by your key. But be aware that the key needs to be completely surrounded by a metal layer, without even the slightest gap, to be protected from the relay attack.

6. Contact your car’s manufacturer to find out if there are any extra steps you can take to protect your specific model.

Clive Wain, head of police liaison at Tracker, added his own advice, saying: “It’s worth remembering that vehicle security should be multi-layered and shouldn’t just rely on a keyless security system. Traditional physical barriers, such as crook locks and wheel clamps can help deter thieves, but in the event of a car being stolen, vehicle tracking technology plays a powerful role in outwitting thieves.”

“Investing in a tracking device won’t stop a car being stolen, but it can significantly increase the chances of police locating it and returning it to the rightful owner,” concluded Wain. “This, plus added vigilance, dramatically contributes to keeping thieves at bay.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.