Keyless car theft: how to avoid becoming a victim

You don’t need a key to steal a car; anyone who’s ever watched a Hollywood film could tell you that. But, in an age when cars are increasingly locked not with an old-fashioned key but with a keyless entry system, things are a little different from the hot-wiring scenes we’re used to seeing in films.

Keyless car theft is on the rise, with a 48.7% increase seen over the past five years. Working in pairs, thieves use two gadgets called a relay amplifier and relay transmitter to hijack a car key signal from a car parked outside a house with the key inside. Doing this, they’re quickly and quietly able to trick the car into thinking that the real key is being used, thereby gaining entry to the vehicle and driving off in it.

While car manufacturers are still developing foolproof keyless systems, what can you do to make sure you don’t become one of the growing number of victims of this type of crime? Here are some of the measures you can take to keep your car safe.

Switch the key off, if possible

Some car keys can be turned off when they’re not needed, which prevents thieves being able to hijack their signal. It might not be immediately apparent that your key has this ability – it could be that it’s a combination of key presses rather than a simple on/off button – so have a look in your owner’s manual to find out whether it’s possible.

Be careful where you keep the key

If it’s not possible to switch your key off, then you can at least be careful where you keep it. For starters, don’t put it in an obvious place such as on a windowsill or by the door, where it can easily be spotted from outside.

Simply keeping it in a metal tin should help keep your car safe by blocking the signal from the key, but you can also invest in what’s known as a Faraday pouch – a small pouch made from materials that block the signal (test it to ensure that it works by standing next to your car and trying to unlock it with the key while it’s in the pouch).

And finally…

It sounds obvious, but all the usual advice on keeping your car safe still applies. Keeping your car in the garage is ideal, if you have one, but if not, standard security measures such as steering wheel locks or a post for your driveway will help act as a deterrent to would-be thieves. Keep your eyes peeled for suspicious behaviour in your neighbourhood, and consider investing in a tracking device for your vehicle.

Even the most diligent car owners could end up becoming a victim of keyless car theft, and a tracker will dramatically increase the chances of your car being found if the worst comes to the worst.