The rise in keyless car technology is driving a significant increase in car theft, according to claims data from LV= General Insurance (LV= GI). In each of the last four years (2016-19) ‘theft of’ car claims has increased by 20%, with keyless car theft accounting for a greater proportion of claims.
While it may be presumed that a new car with the latest automotive technology would be less rel=”noopener noreferrer” likely to be stolen, keyless cars can be vulnerable to technology-savvy criminals. Criminals use widely available signal relay devices to ‘trick’ the car into thinking the correct key is present by amplifying its signal and as soon as the thieves get access, the car can be removed in seconds.
Luxury car makes such as Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus, Mercedes, Porsche and Tesla are increasingly affected by keyless theft, accounting for almost half (48%) of all ‘theft of’ vehicle claims.
There are different ‘theft of’ rel=”noopener noreferrer” circumstances that drivers claim on their car insurance for, with the average cost of claim ranging from £6,000 to almost £15,000, depending on the type of claim. Burglary has the highest average claim cost, at approx. £14,629, followed by force or threat of violence, at just under £11,000, demonstrating that professional thieves are targeting more valuable vehicles. Opportunists, however, will take what they can get, with lower average costs, ranging from £6-10,000, for claims relating to vehicle unlocked, lost or stolen keys, keys left in vehicle and theft by deception.
‘Theft from’ vehicle claims, which involves theft of parts or possessions from vehicles, has also seen a sharp rise over the last four years – up 140%. This has primarily been driven by one increasingly attractive part to thieves – the catalytic converter. This part is being stolen for its precious metal content, with hybrid vehicles and luxury brands most regularly targeted.
The claims data indicates that vehicle crime has increased across the UK’s main metropolitan areas, with London, Birmingham, Nottingham and Greater Manchester seeing the biggest spikes in the last four years. London has seen the biggest rise, with vehicle theft claims increasing by 265% since 2016, while Birmingham, Nottingham and Greater Manchester have also seen disproportionate increases of over 100%.
Heather Smith, Managing Director at LV= GI, said: “From keyless cars, to Apple’s recent CarKey partnership with BMW, which means drivers can unlock and start their vehicle with an iPhone, car technology continues to advance. But unfortunately so do the methods criminals use to steal them, so consumers need to keep on top of new innovations and take extra precautions to ensure they stay one step ahead of criminals who may try and take advantage of them, and their cars.
“The police can only do so much, so it’s vital that drivers do everything they can to protect their vehicle, especially those driving a luxury or prestige car that is likely to attract attention. Most car theft happens near people’s homes, but with a better understanding of the technology and a few simple security measures, you can make your car a lot less appealing to thieves.”
Here are some tips from LV= on the best way to keep your car secure:
Keep your key fob safe and well away from your vehicle
Place your keys or fob as far away from the vehicle as you can, and if possible keep them in a Faraday bag, which prevents the fob from sending digital signals that can be picked up by thieves. Don’t forget about your spare keys and apply the same level of care you would to your main keys or fob. So far this year LV= has distributed 18,000 Faraday bags to existing customers to help protect them from keyless car theft.
Invest in protection for your vehicle
A simple steering wheel lock or wheel clamp might look ugly, but are enough to deter even the hardiest criminals. These items typically require noisy drills or saws to cut through, and therefore often act as a good first line of defence. Although this might not completely prevent theft, these devices may slow down a thief. For drivers with a hybrid vehicle, it’s worth considering getting a specific catalytic converter lock fitted, which makes it a lot harder for thieves to cut it out and remove.
Locking the vehicle
First things first – if your vehicle has keyless entry, make sure it is locked every time you’re not in it, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes when you’re paying to park somewhere – thieves can take an unlocked car in seconds.
When it comes to locking, many modern cars have keys with two settings – for single and double locking. A lot of drivers don’t realise that on many models if you press your key fob once your car will only be single locked. This means that if you smashed the window you could manually open the car by reaching in and pulling the handle from the inside. These key fobs require a second pressing of the locking button to enable all security features. It is important to read your car’s manual when you first get it and familiarise how to securely lock your car when you’re not in it.
Driveway parking posts (fold down bollards) are a cheap but efficient way of deterring would-be thieves. Drivers can also go one step further and install lockable gates in their driveway, while simple CCTV systems can provide further peace of mind. Luxury cars, which are at greater risk of theft, should be parked in a locked garage where possible.
Installing a tracker system in your vehicle, such as a Thatcham approved device, offers an extra layer of security. A tracking device won’t stop your vehicle being stolen, but it significantly increases the chances of the police recovering and returning it.
Beware of hackers
Many vehicles now require log-in details or use smartphone apps to make the most of new features, such as connected maps, weather updates and live news reports beamed to the infotainment screen. Use obscure passwords for any online account, don’t share them and don’t give anyone access to your car app or portal account.