High Tech Heist: How to protect your keyless car

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — If you bought a car within the last five years, you most likely have a keyless push start system.  While it was convenient, it also makes it easier for some thieves to steal your pricey car because of the signal your key fob constantly transmits.

These days, getting in your car and driving off has become easier than ever before.

“I’d say the majority of cars have push starts,” said Joseph Gentile.

And he would know.  He has been working on cars at Albany Light Truck and Car Repair since the 1990s.

“It’s coming  to the point as things get more convenient, it is getting convenient for thieves to steal.  So you have to take some precautions.”

That’s because your car is basically a computer on wheels.  

“People are not just breaking into vehicles but starting them up and driving them away,” Roger Morris with the National Crime Insurance Bureau explained.

Clever criminals are becoming hackers.  Surveillance footage from around the country illustrates criminals swiping data with a mystery device to unlock cars without ever picking a lock.

“It can capture that signal because your fob is communicating with the vehicle,” Morris explained. “In many cases, it also says I’m your key go ahead and start it, but it only works on keyless remote starts.”

Morris tested it out himself.

“All makes and models, different manufacturers.  Some were very easily broken into,” he added. “There is no evidence, no broken glass, nothing to show the car was broken into.”

Morris purchased a device online and tested 35 different makes and models.

“We were able to unlock and open half of those vehicles, and we were able to start and drive off with all but one.”

Gone in less than 60 seconds.

“The biggest problem is no one has ever been caught in the act,” Morris said.

Gentile added, “People feel violated. They feel bad and think did I leave the car unlocked?”

There is a key to protecting your wheels.

“One thing that definitely works is if you take any metal like aluminum foil and wrap it around your device, that blocks the radio signal,” Gentile demonstrated. “I cannot get in. I unwrap it.”

While alumninum foil is a cheap and effective way to block the signal, people can also purchase faraday pouches lined with metallic fabric that will block your fob’s signal until you take it out of the pouch and are ready to get into your car.

But a high tech heist isnt the only way thieves are taking advantage.  In some instances, all they do is wait to find a car where someone left the key fob inside and push start.

“If you have a new car, just make yours a little harder to steal and they will move on to somebody else,” Gentile said.

Most recently, Morris tested his device on four brand new 2017 Chevys. The good news: he was unable to break in using the device.  Morris told NEWS10 ABC he works closely with law enforcement around the country on what to look for because this type of theft is hard to track since there is no physical evidence left behind.

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