Vehicle Thefts From Key Fob Cloning Are Spiking: How to Protect Yourself

We guess that car thieves have a lot of spare time. How else can you explain how they always find a way to find vulnerabilities in theft deterrents? One of those discoveries is how easy it is to clone key fobs. So now thieves no longer have to break into a vehicle to steal it. Key fob thefts are quick and easy which always works best in the world of property theft.

The theft rings “are using sophisticated equipment”

Key fob codes
Breaking key fob codes | Getty

No broken glass. Not the blaring alarm horn. Piece of cake. And lately, it has been Ford F-150 pickups that have been on the key fob theft radar. According to Port. St. Lucie Assistant Police Chief Richard Del Toro, “They’re using sophisticated equipment. It’s not their first rodeo.” Indeed!

The worst part might be that unless the vehicle is found, it is impossible to know how it was stolen. But there have been some hints. Del Toro says that when the police caught two Miami men, they discovered a cache of key fobs and a tablet-like device. 

How are these thieves using key fobs?

Key fob security
Key fob security flaws | Getty

“We caught a couple of people that happened to have this type of technology on them and that’s what really alerted us to what was going on,” he said. It’s actually pretty simple once you know how they do it. With blank key fobs purchased on eBay or other sites, software is used to download all of the information needed for the vehicle. 

They plug the device into the code reader under the dash and direct it to download what they need. Then, they can program one of the blank key fobs to start the vehicle right up. Because it is the most popular vehicle in the US, Ford F-150 trucks are the vehicle most stolen.

Thieves have targeted the most popular vehicles forever

Passenger's side front angle view of silver 2005 Honda Accord, one of the best used cars priced under $5,000
2005 Honda Accord | Getty

But it has been that way for decades. When the Honda Accord held that distinction, it became the most stolen. The same thing happened later with the Toyota Camry. 

Parts of every stripe are needed to fix or rebuild similar vehicles. If it sells the most, it is usually wrecked the most. That, in turn, makes it the most vulnerable. So thieves take their time to figure out how to exploit a flaw, and then it becomes like shooting fish in a barrel. 

Thief tribal knowledge varies from city to city

This Red Kia Soul on the road is one of the best used cars for under $20,000
Kia Soul | Getty Images

In other parts of the country, local thieves have zeroed in on the vehicles that thief tribal knowledge informs them of. Last year we covered the large number of car thefts specifically targeting Hyundai and Kia vehicles. Why those? Because thieves passed around what the vulnerabilities of those makes of cars had. And just like that, every Kia and Hyundai was a target in the Milwaukee area

And while there are sophisticated alarms and tracking devices, Del Toro says don’t bother. Steering wheel locks go a long way towards thwarting thieves he says. They sell for around $30. 

Is your car or truck worth an extra $30, to keep from going through the hassle, inconvenience, and cost of having your vehicle stolen? That’s a resounding YES!

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