Vehicle Theft Increase Using a ‘Mystery Device’
October 7, 2021
Thieves are opportunity seekers, often seeking vehicles that are consistently parked in the same location or that are unsecured. While not everyone will have their vehicle stolen, an increase in vehicle crimes can increase insurance rates. The NICB reported that about one-fourth of a typical comprehensive auto insurance premium pays for auto theft claims.
According to a National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) study, there were 873,080 vehicle thefts in 2020, a 9.2% increase over 2019. The NICB said the pandemic, economic downturn, public safety budgetary and resource limitations are likely contributing factors to this increase.
Also, the NICB reported thieves are utilizing a “mystery device”, a small, electronic device that could unlock and sometimes start the target vehicle at will.
The “mystery device” is actually a relay attack unit and it’s a two-part system. The system can break into cars with a keyless entry system and can start cars with a push-button start. The first part of the system, the relay box, works by capturing the code being transmitted from the keyless fob remote to the car up to 10 feet away. Once the relay box has obtained the code, it will then transfer the code to the vehicle side relay box. The thief stands next to the vehicle, activates the vehicle side relay box, and can unlock the target vehicle. The mystery device can start the target vehicle if there is a push-button start.
The NICB tested the mystery device over a two week period on 35 different cars. The device was able to open 19 of the 35 cars successfully. Of the 19 cars they were able to open, the device could start 18. At this time, there is no way to defend your vehicle from the “mystery device.” In the meantime, car owners can be defensive by always locking their vehicles and removing valuables from the vehicle.
Adding multiple layers of protection can help safeguard your vehicle against theft.
The NICB recommends the following:
• Basic protections: Always remove keys from the ignition, lock doors and windows, and park in well-lit areas. Don’t leave your car unlocked and unattended with the engine running. Never
store spare keys inside your vehicle. Safely hide valuables from plain sight.
• Warning devices: Aftermarket alarms are available for all makes and models of cars. A qualified mechanic can install a visible and audible alarm system in your vehicle. Visual devices include column collars, steering wheel locks and brake locks.
• Immobilizing devices: Prevent thieves from bypassing the ignition and hot-wiring your vehicle with an immobilizing device. Many options are available, including smart keys; fuse cut-offs, kill switches; starter, ignition and fuel pump disablers; and wireless ignition authentication. To determine the best device for your vehicle, seek the advice of a qualified mechanic.
• Tracking devices: Tracking devices are very effective in recovering stolen vehicles. A qualified mechanic can install a tracking system in your vehicle that emits a signal to the police or a monitoring service if it is stolen. Some systems combine GPS and wireless technologies to allow remote monitoring of your vehicle. If a thief moves your vehicle, the system alerts you and you can track it on your computer.
It is our shared goal at Robertson Ryan to minimize your risks and keep you safe. If we can be of further assistance with your auto insurance or review current policies, please do not hesitate to reach out.