Car Thieves Using FOBs to Steal Cars

11 Jul 2016



In North Austin, police are seeing an increase in car theft. But thieves are not opening unlocked doors or breaking any windows to steal vehicles. They are instead, using inexpensive, yet high-tech gadgets.

Last month, Steve Meyers had his Volkswagen stolen right from his driveway in Mesa Park. In fact, until he took his dog out on Sunday morning for a walk, he didn’t even notice it was missing.

According to Meyers, it was one of those moments when you are like ‘uh-oh, what is going on here’.

He called the police at that very moment and used the GPS tracker in his SUV to find its location. Tracking data showed the SUV was just north of the airport at an auto body shop and still in perfect condition.

Meyers said there were no signs of a break in and no damage. He then realized that he had just witnessed a key fob attack.

His SUV has keyless ignition and keyless entry which both make a perfect target for thieves.

According to Austin Theft Interdiction Unit’s Police Sgt. Kelly Davenport, keyless technology presents new vulnerabilities.

Austin PD says the thieves are now mimicking the signal that your key fob sends to your vehicle using amplifiers. This signal tells your car to unlock the doors. The amplifier extends the distance between your car and the fob since your fob typically has to be near your car in order for it to work.

Meyers said the amplifiers the thieves used signaled his fob that was sitting right next to his bed. The thieves then just opened the door to his SUV and pressed the button.

This amplifier costs no more than $20 online allowing criminals to make hundreds.

According to Sgt. Davenport, there is a market for it. Criminals can sometimes get paid up to $500 per car driving them down to the border.

This is a type of crime that happens all the time and can’t be stopped, says Police. There are ways people can protect themselves. Police officers recommend that you store your keys at night in an empty paint can, which acts as a Faraday cage, blocking the range.

You might also want to buy a car that has GPS tracking so if your vehicle is indeed stolen, you can easily locate and retrieve it.

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