Car theft is on the rise globally, due to supply chain issues that have blocked automakers’ access to key components and driven up the prices of new vehicles and parts needed to repair cars already on the road.
In Europe and the UK, over the past 10 years, technology has become the primary method of vehicle theft, noted Bryan Gast, Vice President of Investigative Services for the Equity Association. But in the United States, the main driver of theft is the driver who leaves the keys in his car.
“Canada is a bit of a mix between the two,” he said. “We are starting to see, over the past five years, that technology is the predominant way to steal vehicles. Criminals use tools purchased online which can make things very easy. »
For brokers, this creates an opportunity to discuss with customers how to keep their vehicles safe. Here are some popular theft methods and ways to deter them.
- Method: Thieves have started gaining access to something called the On-Board Diagnostic Port (ODP) which provides access to a car’s electronic systems. Once they break into a vehicle, thieves can plug into the ODP and program a new key fob. This allows them to start the car and drive it.
“It’s one of the most common methods in Ontario to steal vehicles,” Gast said. “This is the sixth year in a row that this has increased, so it continues to be an upward trend.”
- Defense: Customers can put an ODP lock, which covers the ODP port. “Some owners have gone so far as to put a dummy ODP port in what appears to be the legitimate port under the dash. The thief plugs into it and nothing happens.
Other deterrents are mechanical locks on the steering wheel or accelerator pedal. There are also immobilizers that can be connected to a car’s ignition system. Gast notes that these require professional installation to avoid invalidating warranties.
- Method: Another trend is the “relay attack,” which typically involves two criminals using technology that picks up door lock signals on newer cars.
If a car owner parks, enters the entrance of his house and drops his key ring on a table, a criminal wearing an extender antenna walks by the house, while an accomplice pulls the handle of car door. This triggers a signal to see if the key fob is nearby. The antenna picks up this signal and returns the radio frequency.
“They’re able to capture that and reprogram the fob and go,” Gast said.
- Defense: There are two main methods. Faraday boxes or pouches that block key fob signals can be placed inside a car owner’s home or carried in a pocket or purse.
Behavioral changes also help. “These attacks are not just happening in residential areas. It can happen in a parking lot. Someone parked his car and now he’s heading to the mall and can’t remember if he locked his vehicle,” Gast said. “Some of these key fobs have pretty good range and the owner clicks their lock button just to make sure. Someone near that device can pick up the signal.
Brokers should also tell customers to be on the lookout for tracking tags (AirTags or SmartTags designed to help people find misplaced phones or laptops) that thieves attach to cars they’ve targeted for the flight.
“A lot of thieves walk around a mall parking lot looking for a particular vehicle, but there’s no possibility of stealing it there,” Gast said. “They put their little device somewhere on a vehicle, then, using an app, they track it regardless of residence – and at two or three in the morning they go to work on their shopping list of what they want to take away. ”
Here are other ways to deter theft or recover stolen vehicles:
- Use of GPS trackers installed either by dealers or by aftermarket repair shops. They can transmit the location of a stolen vehicle and owners can notify law enforcement.
- Park in well-lit areas, put the vehicle in a garage if possible, and always activate the car’s security systems.
- Report suspicious activity. “If you wake up at two in the morning and see people walking around [neighbours’] driveways, there’s a good chance they’ll spot vehicles,” Gast said. “Professional and organized crime groups scour the areas, looking for vehicles where people are not taking these precautions. Supply chain issues drive the market [for vehicles] not only nationally but internationally and this will continue to increase.
Featured image by iStock.com/mladenbalinovac