Car thieves have been stealing expensive cars from driveways with a new method that uses the key, but without needing to first take it from the owner’s house.
The ‘relay’ method has been on the rise for the last year but hadn’t been caught on video until now, when UK police released CCTV footage of two men stealing a Mercedes car in 50 seconds.
This type of theft has become increasingly common over the last year, and it targets “keyless” cars which can be opened simply by the owner bringing the electronic key near to the car.
There are a couple of low-tech ways to safeguard against this method, which only targets high-tech security, say experts.
Video footage released on Nov. 26 taken at a home in Solihull in the west of England, shows how the method relies on two people.
The two men dressed in white overalls can be seen to pull up and get out of another car and approach the house carrying boxes.
One stands next to the rear of the car, while the other goes up to the house with a “relay box”, which is used to pick up the wireless signal from the key inside the house.
The signal—too weak to open the car door at that distance—is then boosted and received by another device held by the car.
The video shows the car lights flash as it unlocks just 24 seconds after they approach the house. The man opens the Mercedes door, and 30 seconds later he makes off with the vehicle.
West Midlands Police spokesperson Mark Silvester, said in a statement: “To protect against this type of theft, owners can use an additional tested and Thatcham-approved steering lock to cover the entire steering wheel.”
The ‘relay’ method can also be thwarted by a metal box.
“The devices are capable of receiving signals through walls, doors, and windows, but not metal,” said a West Midlands police statement.
Car owners with keyless security should put the electronic keys in a box overnight, recommends Admiral car insurance.
“While this may seem like an extreme solution, relay theft is an extreme practice,” Lorna Connelly, head of claims at Admiral said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, we do see claims from customers who have had their cars stolen due to relay theft and it’s a problem that we would advise motorists with keyless cars to be aware of.”
“Despite progresses in anti-theft technology, thieves are always coming up with new ways to make off with your vehicle,” she said.
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