Relay Car Theft – don’t be a victim

While the pandemic and multiple lockdowns might have reduced car theft over the last couple of years, UK police forces are warning that its on the increase again

Home Office data shows that 108,542 vehicles were stolen between April 2021 and March 2022 in England and Wales – a 22 per cent increase on the previous year – with most of the increase due to keyless car theft – or “relay car theft”

What is it?

Many new cars now have keyless entry system, which allows the driver to open and start the car without using a button or turning a key so long as the fob is nearby.

Thieves are exploiting this by using a relay box, meaning they don’t even need a key-fob to start the vehicle and can drive it away in a matter of minutes. The thieves pull up outside a house and hold a relay box against the brick walls of the house to receive a signal from the key inside. This signal is then transferred to a second box which is being held by the other thief stood next to the car. The car’s system is tricked into thinking that the key fob is close by, allowing the thief to open the door and start the car.

The most at-risk are cars that use keyless fobs, as well as ‘connected cars’. In other words those that use internet to access maps, travel info and music – basically anything with an internet-enabled infotainment system.

It’s not just premium cars that are being hit by this new technique – recovery figures found that 82% of Light Commercial Vehicles (LCVs) were stolen without the owner’s keys last year – almost a 100% increase compared to 2016.

The Ford Transit was the most regularly stolen van, and it isn’t just the vehicle that costs businesses – replacing tools, losing business and rising insurance and administration costs all play a part if you have your van stolen.

Many luxury cars are being stolen “to order” and shipped overseas. According to What Car magazine, the most stolen cars in the UK are:

  • Range Rover Sport
  • Range Rover Autobiography
  • Land Rover Discovery
  • Range Rover Vogue
  • BMW X5
  • Range Rover Evoque
  • Mercedes-Benz E-Class
  • Land Rover Defender, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW X 6, Mercedes-Benz GL
  • Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class
  • Mercedes-Benz GLC, BMW M3, Audi Q7

And while these are all luxury cars, smaller more affordable cars are now also being sold with keyless technology, which means that cars such as Ford Fiesta as also topping the list for thieves targets!

What action can you take?

Despite the high-tech nature of this crime, there is an effective low-tech solution. When you have parked your car at home, make sure you put your keys in a metal box to ensure the signal cannot be hacked. A steel petty cash box is ideal, but even a metal biscuit tin will suffice!

By placing your keys in this overnight, thieves will be unable to steal the signal.. Warning! – statistics show that there is an increase in relay car crime ocuring during the day as thieves become more brazen, so its good practice to always remember to put your keys in their box!

As technology continues to evolve and with the abundance of connected devices and keyless systems clients need to consider what the future of crime might look like.

If you have a fleet of vehicles and want more information about protecting your fleet, please get in touch.

About us:

Founded in 1987, Castlemead Insurance Brokers is an independent commercial insurance broker, specialising in Corporate Insurance, offering a full insurance broking and risk management service to our clients. Offices in the South-West of England, with clients across the UK, including Scotland and Channel Islands. Castlemead are experts in International Insurance Programmes and are partner members of the GBN Insurance Network. We also have an EU subsidiary to aid placing insurance policies with modest EU Insurance risk.

Bristol office:
Castlemead House
St John's Road
Bristol BS3 1AL

0117 945 3900

Exeter office:
Leeward House
Fitzroy Road
Exeter Business Park
Exeter EX1 3LJ

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