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The technology being used in cars nowadays is leaps and bounds greater than what it was a decade ago. Even the most entry-level cars come standard with keyless entry and a push-button start, all in an effort to make the driving experience more convenient and safer. The safety relies on the fact that remote key fobs make the car more difficult to steal. However, car thieves have evolved with the new technology and are stealing cars without the use of the remote fob. Here is how you can protect your car from keyless car theft.

How does keyless car theft work?

Close-up of engine start and stop button on the dashboard of a car.
Close-up of engine start and stop button on the dashboard of a car. | Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Keyless car systems utilize key fobs, wireless remotes, or smartphone apps to emit a short-range frequency to the car when you’re close to it so that the doors will unlock and the car will start. And while you might think that this wireless setup would be hard to crack, there are a few different ways that car thieves steal keyless cars:

  • Signal relaying: This is when a car thief uses a wireless transmitter and holds it up to the front door or window of your house. The transmitter captures the signal from the car key in your house and relays it to a second transmitter located near your car (presumably parked outside) in order to unlock the door. Once inside, the thieves will program a blank car key within minutes and drive away with it.
  • Signal jamming: A car thief could have a signal jamming device in their pocket and simply walk near your car when you pull up in a parking lot. The jammer will prevent you from locking the car so that the thief will have easy access to it when you leave.
  • App hacking: Since many automakers are incorporating the use of smartphone apps to lock/unlock and start their cars remotely, car thieves are now hacking those apps to gain access to people’s cars.

The scariest part is that, according to the Locksmith’s Association, “Keyless car theft only takes 20-30 seconds.”

How to protect your car from this type of theft

If you currently own a car that uses a keyless remote fob, then there are a few simple ways to protect it from theft. Good Housekeeping recommends keeping the remote fobs away from the front doors and windows of your house. The most ideal spot would be in a metal container or a Faraday pouch, which is a small pouch lined with materials that block signals.

You should always ensure that your car is locked whenever you leave it, especially at night time. This may seem like a simple step, but it can mean the difference between your car getting stolen and not. Also, make sure to park your car in a well-lit place or beside other cars. Lastly, make sure not to leave valuable personal items in the car as they can attract thieves to your car more than anyone else’s.

A car alarm or tracker can help

A Nissan owner holds the remote key fob to his car.
A Nissan owner holds the remote key fob to his car. | (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)

While many new cars are fitted with immobilizers or alarms, if your car doesn’t have one, then it could be a worthwhile investment. There are plenty of aftermarket alarms with two-way pagers on the market, which will alert you if anyone opens the car door. However, just note that the installation costs and alarm can get pricey.

By following these simple steps, you can prevent your car from becoming another keyless car theft statistic. Remember to lock your car and keep your key fob in a safe place.


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