After almost two decades of decline, vehicle thefts are on the rise in the UK, with a car stolen every five minutes, according to the ONS.
This is, in part, down to the introduction of keyless vehicles, which has led to a new technique in car theft – and can take as little as a minute to carry out.
Keyless technology allows you to open your car door without pressing the open button on your key fob. When you put your hand on your car’s door handle, the vehicle sends out a radio signal and, provided your key fob is within range, the door will open.
However, this technology can be vulnerable to hacking, with criminal gangs developing new ways to pick up the signal from a key fob inside a building and transmit it to the car.
In fact, this technology has been blamed for the insurance industry paying a record number of claims, with insurers handing out a staggering £23 million a day in 2018.
So, if you’ve noticed an uplift in this type of crime in your area, or looking for that extra peace of mind, experts at LeasePlan UK offer their tips that can help keep your vehicle safe from theft.
1. Try to block the signal
There are several items on the market designed to block the signal from your key to your car, but metal-lined Faraday pouches or boxes are by far the most effective. It’s a simple, low-tech solution, but with so many different types, it might take a few purchases to find the one that works best for your vehicle. Instead of hanging your keys on a key hook or leaving them on the coffee table after you’ve parked your car, just simply place your key fob in the Faraday pouch or box. This will stop thieves from being able to amplify your car key signal, therefore stopping them from accessing your car.
2. Make it harder to enhance the signal
Keyless fobs don’t have a great range, so anything you can do to move them away from the car will make it harder for thieves to pick the signal up. When you’ve parked, try to keep the fob away from the doors and windows of your home or office. Experts have suggested keeping your key fob at least five metres away from the vehicle, but try leaving it further away if possible, just to be on the safe side.
3. Try to switch off your key fob
Although this varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, it’s possible to turn off the signal from some key fobs to prevent it from transmitting any signal entirely. This feature isn’t always obvious or straightforward, but if you’re looking to take extra precautions, it could be worth checking the vehicle handbook or speak to a dealer for guidance on how to switch this functionality off.
This is worth considering if you’re heading off on holiday and plan on leaving the key fob at home.
4. Demobilise your vehicle
Even if you’re usually careful and try to follow these tips, there are times you could make a mistake or simply be out-smarted. But that doesn’t mean criminals can leave with your car. If you lock the steering wheel or block your drive, they may be able to get in, but you’ve made the vehicle harder to move. Whilst adding wheel clamps may seem a little over the top, it’s worth bearing in mind if you’re leaving your car parked in the same spot for an extended period of time.
5. Increase your chances of recovering your car
You could consider adding a tracking device to your vehicle. If thieves do get away with it, the chances of you getting it back will significantly increase. Widely available and reasonably priced, these types of devices could help to quickly locate your stolen car.
6. Check your insurance
Although ensuring that you have the correct insurance won’t stop thieves, it’s important to check the wording of your insurance policy. Whilst it’s true that the record number of claims being paid out has been attributed to keyless entry cars, some insurers are still yet to catch up and change their policy wording to reflect this new technology. For example, some insurers say that there must be signs of ‘forcible or violent entry’, or else they won’t pay out. So, it’s worth checking this detail with your insurance provider.
7. Remember the basics
Finally, it’s also important to follow basic car security measures too. Make sure you park your vehicle in a well-lit and secure location and remove or hide any valuables from inside your car.
It’s simple, but always double check that your doors are firmly shut, and the car is locked before walking away too.
With carmakers trying to find ways to respond to this new threat, such as by working on new frequency technologies, software and keys, it’s worth checking with your dealer that your car software is up to date.