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Tips to avoid vehicle theft

27 October 2022

Tracker’s latest Vehicle Crime Index covering the period January to June 2022 reveal that incident volumes have increased to pre-Covid lockdown levels across the country. 

Vehicle theft is up 7% nationally by volume with hijackings up 4% over the previous review period. The elevation can partly be attributed to increased vehicle usage following a return to work and more numerous social occasions, as well as new modus operandi on the part of criminals and crime syndicates, such as keyless access theft.

Duma Ngcobo, Chief Operations Officer at Tracker, says “While technology can provide convenience by allowing you to access your car without having to search for your keys, keyless access theft also highlights how criminals are turning to tech to make car theft easier.”

How does this work?
The keyless access tactic involves a pair or team of criminals, one of whom could follow a newer model vehicle owner as they walk away from a locked vehicle. Using a relay amplifier, a criminal can amplify the constantly transmitted signal received from the vehicle’s key fob to a criminal counterpart’s relay transmitter. The criminal counterpart can then gain access to the vehicle via the transmitter and drive away with it. 

How to mitigate vehicle theft?
While vehicle theft levels remain concerning, there are steps that can be taken to try to avoid becoming a victim. The following tips have been provided to assist you in safeguarding your vehicle:

1. Should you have a keyless access vehicle, invest in a secure Faraday pouch (also known as a fob guard) to store your key fob. Lined with layers of metallic material, this pouch helps block key fob signals, thereby preventing criminals intercepting the signal. 

2. If the front of your home and your vehicle are easily accessible, for instance in high-density or cluster-style living environments, try to store your key fob as far away from the access point and your car’s location as possible, to minimise the possibility of amplifying the key fob signal and allowing criminals to access your vehicle.

3. If your car does not park securely behind a locked gate or in a garage when parked at home, try to park a car requiring a key behind your keyless car to ensure it cannot be driven away without increased effort.

4. You could also consider deactivating the keyless entry function.

5. Ensure that your doors are locked before walking away from your parked car. For cars requiring key entry, always double-check by lifting the handle once you have locked the doors - remote jamming as a modus operandi continues to gain popularity in criminal circles.

6. When parking, choose a well-lit area and if possible, an area with cameras monitoring the parking area and pedestrian activity around your vehicle.

7. Use a steering wheel lock. Although they are considered ‘old-school’, they can be effective as a visual deterrent.

8. Install an immobiliser. While many cars have factory fitted immobilisers, there is merit in having an additional system installed. As an extra bonus your car insurance premium could possibly be reduced because of the additional deterrent.

9. Install CCTV to watch over your car when parked in your driveway and add a motion detector light. Both can act as a deterrent and provide additional peace of mind.

10. Consider installing or upgrading your vehicle tracking system to an option offering both theft retrieval and early notification of unauthorised movement, to ensure vehicle recovery protocols can be initiated immediately following a theft. Every minute counts! 

With more vehicles on the road now than during Covid’s restrictions, the indication is one of greater theft opportunity for criminals.

“As criminals and syndicates vary their methods and use technology to gain access to cars, Tracker encourages all South Africans to adopt proactive behaviours that could help mitigate vehicle theft. Sometimes it is the most simple of behaviours that can make all the difference in ensuring that you remain a step ahead.” concludes Ngcobo.