Contactless car theft – What do we need to Know?

Recently, a Carte Blanche clip on vehicles with keyless entry and push start showed a trend that has already gained traction in other countries, is now in South African. This is the theft of keyless entry vehicles by extending the range of the remote so that once a driver is out of sight of a vehicle, someone else climbs in and drives away – all without any contact with the driver or awareness of it until they return to an empty parking spot.

The CEO of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, says this crime leaves drivers with limited options with which to protect their vehicles. “The first is also effective in avoiding being hijacked. This is by being aware of your surroundings and looking out for markers of individuals involved in this. According to the clip, the criminals follow you and your remote, for a short distance to extend its range.

They wait for targets in parking lots carrying backpacks or briefcases. Not our stereotypical presumption of what a criminal looks like. Yet, certain behaviours should raise concern in you. Be aware of the individuals around you. Those proceeding into a shop without waiting around, are likely innocent bystanders. If they seem to be waiting around for someone or hesitating for some reason, no matter how legitimate it may be, consider leaving and going to another store.”

If you do perceive them as harmless, do not lower your vigilance. “Once in the store, still be on the lookout for them. Perhaps they are still waiting for you or elicited the help of someone else because these crimes are not committed alone. If you suspect someone is following you, stop and let them pass then change your route. This creates a bit of a predicament for a suspicious person.

“The next step is very important. MasterDrive will never encourage returning to the vehicle alone in case you encounter another criminal assisting the person following you. We would be bold enough to say this method is preferable to a violent hijacking. What we do recommend is calling police on your way to security who can return to your vehicle with you.”

Unfortunately, however, you can never guarantee awareness alone is enough. “Current methods to protect vehicles from this crime are limited to increased awareness, switching the role of the key and the car in this scenario, keeping a signal blocker in the vehicle or purchasing a signal blocking pouch for your remote.

“The latter seems to be the most feasible and affordable in addition to increased awareness. Doing something such as switching the role of your key and car may affect things like warranties and should not be entered into without adequate research. Some vehicle manufacturers have made impressive headway to implementing solutions.”

Criminal syndicates evolve just as quickly as technology. “As such never err from the basics that keep you and your belongings safe and never assume new technology is invincible,” say Herbert.


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