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Protect yourself from vehicle theft

According to data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the number of vehicles stolen in England and Wales rose from 104,435 in 2021 to 130,389 in 2022, an increase of just under 25%.

Having recently been a victim of car crime, Phae Bryant talks about the importance of vehicle safety awareness and how insurers can work to offer discounted premiums on certain agricultural vehicles when they are fitted with approved, additional tracking and security devices...

A car purchase is a relatively expensive investment, and we make some assumptions as to the factory-fitted security measures and how they will protect the vehicle from thieves. However, despite these in-built measures, sadly thieves seem to always be one step ahead.

Having recently been a victim of car crime, I confess I was naïve as to just how easy it is to steal keyless cars, which are particularly vulnerable. Figures I have seen online suggest that the latest data reveals that now 93% of thefts are carried out without the keys. The vehicle stolen in my case was a Toyota RAV4 Petrol Hybrid and the increase in sales of these lower-emission vehicles is reflected in the numbers stolen. However, any keyless car is susceptible to theft by two particular methods.

Relay Theft

Relay theft is a technique used by thieves to steal cars with keyless entry systems. It involves using a device to amplify the signal from a key fob inside a home or when you have it in your bag or pocket, to a second device held near the car. This tricks the car into thinking that the key is nearby, allowing the thief to unlock and start the car. The whole process can take as little as a few seconds, making it a very quick and efficient way to steal a car. 

Sometimes the perpetrators will wait for you to walk away to take your vehicle, others follow you home and return later to take the vehicle from your property. To protect your keyless car from relay theft, there are a few steps you can take. 

One relatively cheap option is to use a Faraday pouch or box to store your key fob when you're not using it. This will block the signal and prevent it from being amplified by a thief. You could also use a good old-fashioned steering wheel lock or other physical security device to make your car more difficult to steal.

CAN Injection Theft

Another method used to steal a keyless car is via what's known as a CAN Injection, where the vehicle's CAN (or Controller Area Network) is tricked into thinking that a key is present by bridging some of the wiring loom connections. 

This can be done in a matter of minutes and the thieves gain access to the computers that control the car's engine through the headlight or under the wheel arch. The engine control unit stores a copy of the wireless key code, and thieves can clone this to a blank key fob to use to start the car. Ultimately, the best way to protect yourself from car theft is to remain vigilant and take extra steps to secure your vehicle.

We have personally added another immobiliser that prevents a thief from driving away if they bypass the CAN and have installed an app that provides vehicle status updates in the event of it being tampered with. Some insurers will offer discounted premiums on certain agricultural vehicles if they are fitted with approved (not factory-fitted) tracking and security devices which is worth looking into.

With the right precautions, you can greatly reduce the risk of becoming a victim of relay or any other form of car theft, preventing a great deal of stress, cost, and inconvenience. Hindsight is indeed a wonderful thing, and I won’t be so complacent in the future!

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