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Despite modern technology making it seem as if car theft may be a thing of the past, it’s far from it. The threat of a vehicle getting stolen is still much more prominent than one might think. In fact, in some cases, modern technology may make it easier for car thieves. Most notably, it seems that having the convenience of a push-button ignition system may make it much easier for thieves to steal your car than having a traditional key.

Can vehicles with push-button start be stolen?

push button start on an acura
engine start and stop button | Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

According to The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, a push-to-start car is definitely capable of being stolen. Worse yet, CBC reports that a push-button start system with a proximity key fob makes it easier to steal than a car with a standard key.

You may be familiar with a relay attack. This is a method used to capture a key fob’s signal from inside a house and amplify it so that thieves can unlock a car’s doors. However, CBC reports that car thieves are turning to old school methods to get in. Lock picks.

Lock picking sets are incredibly cheap online and can make breaking into a car take only a matter of seconds. Furthermore, locksmith kits with tools used to pry open doors are also available on websites like Amazon for under $40. If that doesn’t concern you, the next part should!

For under $1,000, anyone can buy a key fob programming tool online. Once inside, car thieves can simply plug the device into the vehicle’s OBD II port and program a blank key fob to match the vehicle’s push-button ignition system. So, in just a matter of minutes, thieves can get into your car and make a clone of your key. This allows them to drive it as if they have the original key.

Professional locksmith Yaser Jafar told CBC how easy it is to pull off.

“When it’s in the wrong hands, and if they have a little experience, or if they learn it, very quickly they can easily steal any car that they want,” said Jafar.

Cars are being stolen frequently in Canada and sold in Africa

man breaks into a car with a crowbar
Man wearing a balaclava, about to break open the side door of a vehicle | Andia/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Apparently, this is all too common of an occurrence in Canada right now. Cars are frequently stolen right outside of peoples’ homes and shipped overseas. Worse yet, the stolen vehicles keep appearing on a West African marketplace website called Jiji. The cars frequently appear for sale with their Ontario, Canada license plates still on them.
The cars are selling for over double their Candian value as they are quite sought after in West Africa. Canadian police say that 80 to 85 percent of cars stolen in Canada are linked to criminal organizations overseas.

Unfortunately, the crime rings’ execution of these thefts is systematic and hard to stop. They steal the car and leave it in a “cool down” location to ensure it isn’t being tracked. Once the thieves are convinced it isn’t, it’s driven to a Montreal or Halifax port and loaded on shipping containers to go overseas.

Unfortunately, there are no regulations on the tools required to clone the key. So, there aren’t many tips to give push-button start car owners to prevent theft. Realistically, parking your car inside a garage or using things like a steering wheel lock may be the only real solution. Remember to be mindful of where you’re parking and ensure that you’ve got a decent security system.


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