There has been a significant rise in keyless car thefts over the past four years, new research has revealed.
Between 2016 to 2019, claims for car theft has increased by 20 per cent, with keyless car theft accounting for a large proportion of claims, according to data from LV= General Insurance.
It found that vehicle theft claims in London have increased by 265 per cent since 2016, with Birmingham, Nottingham and Greater Manchester seeing individual increases of over 100 per cent in recent times.
Although some may presume that a new car with the latest technology would be less likely to be stolen, keyless cars can be vulnerable to technology-savvy criminals.
There has been a significant rise in keyless car thefts over the past four years, data reveals
Criminals are known to use widely available signal relay devices to trick the car into thinking the correct key is present by amplifying is signal and, as soon as the thieves get access, the car can be removed in seconds.
Luxury car makes such as Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus, Mercedes, Porsche and Tesla are increasingly affected by keyless theft, accounting for 48 per cent of all ‘theft of’ vehicle claims.
Where has seen the biggest rise in car theft?
Below This is Money has listed the top ten places in the UK that have seen the biggest rise in car thefts.
Even though in Liverpool and Wigan the figures have actually gone reduced from 2016 to 2019, the volumes are still big enough to keep them in the top ten.
LV= could not be specific with the exact percentage of car thefts in Birmingham, Nottingham and Greater Manchester but said all were over 100%.
London: up 265%
Stockport: up 205%
Bolton: up 146%
Cheadle: up 116%
Solihull: up 114%
Birmingham, Nottingham and Greater Manchester: over 100% (not specific)
Wigan: down 22%
Liverpool: down 44%
There are different ‘theft of’ circumstances that drivers claim on their car insurance for, with the average cost of claim ranging from £6,000 to almost £15,000, depending on the type of claim.
Burglary has the highest average claim cost, at approximately £14,629, followed by force or threat of violence, at just under £11,000, demonstrating that professional thieves are targeting more valuable vehicles.
Opportunists, however, will take what they can get, with lower average costs, ranging from £6,000 to 10,000, for claims relating to vehicle unlocked, lost or stolen keys, keys left in vehicle and theft by deception.
‘Theft from’ vehicle claims, which theft of parts or possessions from vehicles, has also seen a sharp rise over the last four years – up 140 per cent.
This has primarily been driven by one increasingly attractive part to thieves – the catalytic converter.
This part is being stolen for its precious metal content, with hybrid vehicles and luxury brands most regularly targeted.
The claims data indicates that vehicle crime has increased across the UK’s main metropolitan areas, with London, Birmingham, Nottingham and Greater Manchester seeing the biggest spikes in the last four years.
Separate data earlier this year revealed the thefts of the devices from the underside of cars rose six-fold in 2019 with 13,000 reported cases in England and Wales – up from 2,000 the year previous, according to an investigation by BBC Radio 5 Live.
Burglary has the highest average claim cost, at approximately £14,629, LV= research shows
It also revealed that an act introduced in 2013 to prevent dealers from accepting cash sales of scrap metal and requiring proof of identity on transactions has not been enforced by councils, giving criminals easy means of offloading valuable stolen catalytic converters.
In an added nasty twist, criminals have been found targeting vehicles owned by NHS staff, who are parking their cars for prolonged periods during their shifts.
Heather Smith, Managing Director at LV= GI, said: ‘From keyless cars, to Apple’s recent CarKey partnership with BMW, which means drivers can unlock and start their vehicle with an iPhone, car technology continues to advance.
‘But unfortunately so do the methods criminals use to steal them, so consumers need to keep on top of new innovations and take extra precautions to ensure they stay one step ahead of criminals who may try and take advantage of them, and their cars.
‘The police can only do so much, so it’s vital that drivers do everything they can to protect their vehicle, especially those driving a luxury or prestige car that is likely to attract attention.
‘Most car theft happens near people’s homes, but with a better understanding of the technology and a few simple security measures, you can make your car a lot less appealing to thieves.’
Luxury car makes such as Audi, Porsche and Tesla (pictured, Model X) are increasingly being targeted by criminals using keyless theft techniques
How to keep your car safe
Keep your key fob safe and well away from your vehicle: Place your keys or fob as far away from the vehicle as you can, and if possible keep them in a Faraday bag, which prevents the fob from sending digital signals that can be picked up by thieves.
Don’t forget about your spare keys and apply the same level of car you would to your main keys or fob. So far this year LV= has distributed 18,000 Faraday bags to existing customers to help protect them from keyless car theft.
Invest in protection for your vehicle: A simple steering wheel lock or wheel clamp might look ugly, but are enough to deter even the hardiest criminals. Earlier this year, Halfords launched the first fingerprint-activated lock, which costs £60. These items typically require noisy drills or saws to cut through, and therefore often act as a good first line of defence.
Although this might not completely prevent theft, these devices may slow down a thief. For drivers with a hybrid vehicle, it’s worth considering getting a specific catalytic converter lock fitted, which makes it a lot harder for thieves to cut it out and remove.
Locking the vehicle: It may sound simple but if your vehicle has keyless entry, make sure it is locked every time you’re not in it, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes when you’re paying to park somewhere – thieves can take an unlocked car in seconds.
When it comes to locking, many modern cars have keys with two settings – for single and double locking. A lot of drivers don’t realise that on many models if you press your key fob once your car will only be single locked.
This means that if you smashed the window you could manually open the car by reaching in and pulling the handle from the inside. These key fobs require a second pressing of the locking button to enable all security features. It is important to read your car’s manual when you first get it and familiarise how to securely lock your car when you’re not in it.
Extra vigilance: Driveway parking posts are a cheap but efficient way of deterring would-be thieves. Drivers can also go one step further and install lockable gates in their driveway, while simple CCTV systems can provide further peace of mind.
Luxury cars, which are at greater risk of theft, should be parked in a locked garage where possible.
Tracking device: Installing a tracker system in your vehicle, such as a Thatcham approved device, offers an extra layer of security. A tracking device won’t stop your vehicle being stolen, but it significantly increases the chances of the police recovering and returning it.
Beware of hackers: Many vehicles now require log-in details or use smartphone apps to make the most of new features, such as connected maps, weather updates and live news reports beamed to the infotainment screen.
Use obscure passwords for any online account, don’t share them and don’t give anyone access to your car app or portal account.