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Theft of items from parked vehicles is increasing and now outright theft of vehicles. Picture: SUPPLIED
Theft of items from parked vehicles is increasing and now outright theft of vehicles. Picture: SUPPLIED

There were an estimated 83,000 incidences of theft of motor vehicles during the 2020/2021 period, according to SA crime statistics.

The Insurance Crime Bureau has warned of a new way being used by criminals who target newer models with sophisticated systems. This is known as a “relay attack” device and criminals can intercept and copy the signals emitted by a vehicle to unlock, start and drive away with your car.

It’s different from the known signal-jamming device, which prevents the car from locking so criminals can gain access to the vehicle. This new device gives criminals access to the vehicle to copy the signal — meaning they can unlock and start the car, and drive away with it.

The device, examples of which police have confiscated, intercepts the signals sent by the key fob while it’s looking for the linked car, which allows criminals to open it and steal the contents or even the vehicle itself. 

There are five ways to help prevent your vehicle being stolen this way:

1. Deactivate your keyless entry/start functionality if this is possible in your vehicle. It can be switched off in some cars, but not others.

2. Thieves prefer to work in the dark. Be particularly cautious at night about where you park your car. Park it in a well-lit area if possible.

3. Fit a gear lock or steering lock. They are not foolproof but such devices discourage thieves who would not want to waste unnecessary time. The quicker a car thief can steal your vehicle, the more attractive it is. 

Although the simple u-type shackle gear locks are still being used, internal gear locks are more effective as the mechanism is buried deep in the transmission housing. They are also better concealed in the gear lever console to complement the vehicle’s interior.

4. Use a Faraday bag, also referred to as a signal blocking pouche. They are lined with layers of metallic material that can block a key’s signals from reaching the outside world. Once you’ve locked your car, pop the key in the bag to help thwart would-be thieves.

5. Install a tracking device in your vehicle if it doesn’t have one. Thieves are reluctant to steal vehicles if they know the cars can be recovered quickly.


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