The UK's best selling cars are vulnerable to keyless theft, study finds
Cars with keyless entry are at risk of being stolen by thieves using cheap equipment that can be bought easily online. Consumer group Which? has found that 99% of cars fitted with keyless entry are at risk of being hacked by special transmitters that can remotely unlock your car whilst your keys are inside your house.
Watch how easily thieves steal a car:
How does it work?
Thieves use 'Relay Boxes' to steal your pride and joy. They usually work in pairs where one is stood close to the victim's house transmitting near to their windows or front door, where the relay box will pick up the car key fob's frequency and catapult it to the other person who's stood by the car. This then unlocks the car and the same process is done to start the engine.
Most affected cars
Of the five best-selling cars in the UK, only one isn't susceptible to keyless theft. The Vauxhall Corsa isn't affected by this crime simply because it doesn't have the option to go fully keyless, whereas Ford takes a double-whammy with both the Fiesta and the Focus falling victim. Also affected is the Volkswagen Golf, which is the second most popular car in the UK and the Nissan Qashqai, which is in forth place.
More than 30 manufacturers have made cars that can be remotely unlocked by criminals, these include Audi, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Peugeot, Renault, Skoda and Volvo, with many other brands being included. Crime statistics suggest that one car is being stolen in the UK every seven minutes.
The German General Automobile Club (ADAC) has tested 237 keyless cars (models that unlock when the key is close by) and found that a whopping 230 of them can be hacked by a relay box.
Only three vehicles (all from Jaguar Land Rover) weren't susceptible at all. The latest models of the Jaguar i-Pace, Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover all passed the test with flying colours and could not be remotely unlocked.
As of January 2019, all new cars should be better protected thanks to new rules with the New Vehicle Security Assessment (NVSA).
What can you do to protect your car?
1. Steering wheel lock
Steering wheel locks are a cost-effective deterrent to thieves. This simple method means that criminals won't be able to steal a car quickly. These age-old contraptions are usually more than enough needed to prevent theft.
2. Leave your keys inside a metal box and away from your front door
Many online shops sell special 'metal lined' wallets that are designed to block hacking signals. These work for a period of time but not for long as the metal lining perishes with daily wear and tear and even the slightest gap in the metal is enough to let signal in/out. A much better cost-effective alternative is to keep your keys in a fully metal box overnight. As long as the box has a close-able lid and is kept well-away from windows and the front door, you should be fine.
3. CCTV and a locked gate on your drive
Not only does CCTV act as a deterrent, it can also help the police in identifying and tracking any potential suspects. If your property has a driveway, consider lockable bollards or gates to create another hurdle for criminals to contend with.
Parking away from your house. This means that the criminal would have to scan every home on the street in the hope of finding where the key lives.
Put a cover on your car. If they don't know what they're stealing, they usually won't bother.
Double check your doors when you lock the car. Even if you hear the locks engage, give them a pull just to be safe, as a baddie might be trying to jam your signal as you walk away from your car.
Contact your manufacturer to see if there are any tips or software updates for your car.
What do thieves do with stolen cars?
Stolen cars normally end up in one of three places; in a 'chop shop' where the vehicle gets stripped down and sold for parts, or shipped abroad and sold for cash in another country. Sometimes the thieves are just stealing the car to joy ride it and end up wrapping the car around a tree after a few miles.