Criminals ransack and steal vehicles having stopped their locks working with long range, wireless, key jammers.
Drivers targeted At M4 Services
Tech-savvy thieves increasingly use key jammers to stop motorists locking their vehicles then plunder any valuables, Police warned. Motorists in cars, vans and lorries at the Chieveley, Reading and Membury Services on the M4 fell victim in November 2016, for example. Police revealed there were “no obvious signs of break-in”.
How key jammer theft works
A modern vehicle typically has a wireless fob rather than a traditional key that has to be inserted into a slot. Pressing a button sends a signal that instructs the vehicle to lock or unlock.
A key jammer – which might have a range that covers a small car park – blocks the “lock” signal which leaves the car exposed. Without (say) breaking a window which attracts attention, the criminal accesses the cabin, ransacks its contents and removes valuables such as cash. A perpetrator has a second option, however.
The vehicle has an on-board diagnostic port which enables its mechanic to connect a computer to identify faults. It is also a means to program a replacement, blank, fob to connect to the vehicle if the original is lost or broken. The criminal could access this system, program his own key fob then simply drive away.
Police, Home Office and manufacturers strive to minimise threat
Deputy Chief Constable Matt Jukes, from the National Police Chiefs' Council, said that jammers are a "growing feature of vehicle crime". He added: “The Vehicle Crime Intelligence Unit is working closely and extensively with a number of partners - including the Home Office and manufacturers - on solutions to prevent the crime”.
He continued: "It is essential that people remain vigilant against this kind of electronic breach. We urge people to keep a close watch on their cars and possessions so as not to offer any incentives to criminals”. Mr Jukes urged motorists to manually check that their doors are locked and to remove/hide any valuables.
Christmas presents stolen by key jammers
Loran Dover fell victim to key jammers. She told the BBC: "When I got up and ready for work, I went outside to find my all car doors just placed shut. I knew I locked it.” She added: “I was staying at my partner's house and had to leave Christmas presents in the car.”
She explained: “When we actually looked inside the car, the whole car had been rifled through and anything of value taken. Police at first said there was nothing they'd do. Not even send anybody to check for fingerprints because there was no clear sign of break-in.”
“But when I phoned my bank to cancel my card, the thieves had been using my contactless (card). That's when the police actually got involved and took it more seriously. They are currently looking at CCTV so hopefully they catch them," Ms Dover concluded.