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Car security: how to keep your car safe

Thieves are using high-tech equipment to steal cars and valuables left in them, but there’s plenty you can do to deter them

Words ByClaire Evans

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Cars are getting smarter at an alarming pace. The β€˜connected car’ of the future will become a reality far sooner than you think. In fact, a lot of this technology is already available in some form or another. For example, even many entry-level cars now come with Bluetooth and keyless entry. Is all this clever technology secure, though?

There has been an increase of almost 30% in the number of cars stolen in the recent years; just under 70,000 car thefts were reported in 2014, compared with more than 85,000 in 2016. And experts believe the rise is mainly due to criminals catching up with the latest car technology features.

β€œTechnology advances in immobilisers, keys and car alarms had caused the number of vehicle thefts to decrease significantly from more than 300,000 in 2002, but sadly they have now increased after bottoming out in 2012-2013,” explained Mark Godfrey, a director with RAC Insurance.

β€œWe fear thieves are becoming more and more well equipped with technology that’s capable of defeating car manufacturers’ anti-theft systems."

How do thieves steal cars without the keys?

One of the latest ways thieves can steal a car without taking the keys is relay theft.

This usually involves two people working together using relay transmitters that can be bought online for around Β£100. These boxes capture the signals emitted by certain key fobs.

One person waves a relay box around outside the car owner’s front door to grab the signal from a key that could have been left on a hallway table. This is passed on to the second person who’s standing next to the car with another relay box, which receives the signal and uses it to unlock the car. The thieves can then simply drive the car away.

Other thieves use even cheaper gadgets to steal cars. With an interceptor costing just Β£30, a thief can stand near your car while you lock it and record the code sent out by the key. The equipment then cleverly calculates the unlocking code for your car and allows them to gain access to it and drive off.

Brands targeted by gangs who steal new cars – often to order – include Audi, BMW, Ford, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen.

The good news is there are some measures you can take to minimise the risk of your car getting hacked.

Next: Car security: top tips to protect your car >

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