High-tech thieves target keyless entry cars

WNEM TV 5

Your new vehicle’s security may be truly high-tech, but thieves are exploiting a feature that might make you rethink where you’re putting your key fob. Car keys may one day become a thing of the past. More and more car manufacturers are equipping their new rides with keyless entry technology.

Juan Olivarez, who drives a 2014 Chevy Impala, never has to pull his key fob from his pocket.

“Push to start, you know, only way to go,” Olivarez said.

But as technology makes life easier, take note: Thieves are out there to mess life up.

All they need is some tech know-how and a radio amplifier to trick your car into believing they have the fob.

Keyless cars broadcast a low-frequency signal to recognize when the key is nearby, and when it is, the car will unlock and start. But power amplifier devices can amplify the distance the signal searches. So if your car’s outdoors and your key fob is in your home, crooks can break in and take what’s inside.

Saginaw County Undersheriff Phil Hart said it’s happened in Mid-Michigan.

“There was no sign of forced entry. They didn’t know how anybody got in. We checked with the owners. They still had possession of the key itself, the fob, so this is the only way it potentially could have happened,” Hart said.

Power amplifiers can be purchased for as little as $20. Eric Richards is a tech expert who works for SAMSA in Midland and said there’s not much you can do about it.

“The only way to stop that is to shut the device off. There’s no way to shut that off without removing the battery and taking your key fob apart,” Richards said.

So next time you push to start, remember high-tech thieves always have their engines running.

“It’s pretty crazy out there this time and age,” Olivarez said.

Experts add if you’d like an added layer of protection, you can store your key fob in your microwave or refrigerator, and the metal casing typically stops the signal.

But maybe in a more practical note, the undersheriff said just make sure not to leave any valuables in your car at night.