Whilst hot wiring or using a screwdriver in the ignition to steal a modern car is no longer an issue, we are now reading reports, in the press, about problems with keyless car theft.

Keyless car theft is when a thief accesses and steals your vehicle without possessing the original fob. Also referred to as ‘relay theft’, it is where the signal from a key for a “Keyless entry” car is cloned by the use of high-tech amplifiers and relay transmitters.

Working in pairs, one thief will stand by the car with the transmitter while a second carries the amplifier around the perimeter of the victim’s house, hoping the signal from the actual key inside the building is detected. If they capture the signal they then boost it to the transmitter. The transmitter effectively becomes the key and tricks the car into thinking the real key is in proximity. The thieves simply open the car door, get in and drive off in a matter of seconds.

As manufacturers develop more advanced anti-theft systems to thwart thieves, there are simple things that car and van owners can do themselves to protect their pride and joy parked outside their house.

Store your key as far away from the vehicle as possible.
Don’t just throw your keys on the side in full view from the window and it is also advisable not to hang your keys on a hook just inside the front door. Make it harder for criminals to detect and amplify your key signal by storing your keys out of view and as far away from your vehicle as you can.

Block the signal.
Store your keys in a signal-blocking box or Faraday pouch (both of which can be bought cheaply online) or even just an aluminium tin. The metal in these solutions blocks the radio waves from the key, stopping them being picked up by the thief’s amplifier. Whichever solution you opt for, it is always recommended you test its efficiency simply by putting your key in the receptacle and standing near the vehicle to check the doors don’t unlock or that the engine starts when you press the start button.

Turn off keyless fob’s wireless signal.
Some key fobs can be switched off. It is probably not the most obvious thing to do and not all key fobs can be turned off however check your manual to find out if your key has this function.

Keep the vehicle software updated.
As cars and vans become ever more connected, having the latest software installed on the vehicle keeps thieves at bay. Like your phone or computer, new releases of software will include new security measures rolled out in response to new types of criminal technology. Some manufacturers let you download updates from their website and transfer them to your car with a USB storage device, and some more recent vehicles can be updated over-the-air via a sim card (just as you have in your phone). Consult your manual to see how you can stay up-to-date.

Check your vehicle's technology.
Many manufacturers are always working to be one step ahead of car thieves, inventing advanced anti-theft technology so thieves can’t tap into the car's signal. Many cars also now have the option to turn off the keyless entry system when it’s parked for long periods. Some even have password entry as an additional layer of protection. Once again, check your vehicle’s handbook to see what systems you could utilise.

Even if the thief still manages to clone your key, there are also physical deterrents that will help keep your car in your possession.

  1. Attach a steering wheel lock, a pedal lock or a wheel clamp when the vehicle is parked overnight – Although not 100% effective, these types of locks do slow down thieves and force them to make noise. They will act as a deterrent and could convince the thief it is not worth the hassle to try to overcome these locks to get away quickly and successfully.
  2. Park defensively – Park as close to your property as you can so that access is made difficult. Or, even better, install a lockable post to your driveway. If you are a 2-car family, where the other car does not have keyless entry, park that other car so that it blocks any potential exit route of the keyless entry vehicle.
  3. Fit a tracker – You can be sent an alert if it looks like the car isn’t where it should be and the car can be followed via GPS if stolen. The chances of police recovering your car will increase with tjis technology.
  4. Lighting - Security floodlights with motion sensors might be worth installing, and if a CCTV camera is involved, anybody acting suspiciously around the car is now on camera.