Although generally speaking there has been a downward trend in the theft of vehicles since 1995, in the year to March 2018, there was an increase of motor thefts, the highest annual total since 2009.
Insurance industry figures show that in 2018 insurers paid out a record £376m for car theft, up 27% on the year before. Home Office stats show more than 110,000 vehicle thefts in 2017/18 – up 10% on the year before and the highest level for a decade.
A vast number of cars are manufactured with keyless entry systems, which allows owners to open their vehicle as long as the key is nearby, for example, in a bag or pocket, offering convenience to drivers. But this can be exploited by criminals.
Thieves are thought to be using technology to bypass entry systems on keyless cars or trick cars into thinking the key is in the criminal’s hand. As the same keyless remotes also start the car, once inside the same technology could be used to start the ignition and drive off with the car.
Allianz’s chief claims officer, Graham Gibson is Chairman of the motor insurers’ automotive research centre, or Thatcham Research as it is more commonly known.
Thatcham Research has released some security tips for drivers with keyless entry systems including:
- contacting your dealer and talking about the digital features in your car. Have there been any software updates you can take advantage of?
- checking if your keyless entry fob can be turned off. If it can, and your dealer can also confirm this, then do so overnight
- storing your keys away from household entry points. Keeping your keyless entry fob out of sight is not enough – thieves only need to gain proximity to the key to amplify its signal.
To view a complete list of Thatcham Research's security tips, visit their website.
Other methods include keeping keys in metallised signal blocking devices, which are designed to protect electronic keys from relay attacks, and traditional anti-theft devices, such as steering-wheel locks, which are a visible deterrent to thieves.
With technology constantly evolving, and methods used by criminals continually changing, the industry is trying to stay one step ahead where vehicle security is concerned.
Graham Gibson said:
“Car theft is well and truly back and it’s costing insurers millions of pounds and causing our customers considerable inconvenience and in some cases real emotional stress. In the face of a challenge caused by modern technology it’s ironic that reverting back to old fashioned sensible precautions like fitting a steering lock could prevent a car being stolen.”