Car thieves using their own technology to bypass anti-theft safeguards

The excerpted article was written by  | The Chronicle Herald

Stolen car numbers dropped in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador in 2018, but were up in the other Atlantic Canadian provinces.

Nova Scotia’s number was down four per cent from 2017, while Newfoundland and Labrador dropped one per cent. New Brunswick was up seven per cent and Prince Edward Island numbers increased 69 per cent.

The island’s figure shows a statistical anomaly based on the low overall numbers of stolen cars to begin with, said Bryan Gast of the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

On Tuesday, the bureau released its annual list of top stolen vehicles in the country. And while eight of the top 10 countrywide are Ford trucks that predate 2007 and mandatory ignition immobilizers, the Atlantic Canadian list has some newer, higher-end vehicles.

There are only two Fords on the list in the Atlantic region.

Tops on the list are the 2007 Suburbans and Yukon Xls. There are also BMW, Lexus and Infiniti models, the 2014 Dodge Charger and a Mitsubishi.

But while older vehicles have dominated the national list in recent years, thieves are using technology to get around some of the safeguards in newer cars.

“Technology is starting to sneak into the equation,” said Gast, the insurance bureau’s national director of investigative services.

He said stolen car numbers started to drop a decade ago after the ignition immobilizers, which prevent vehicles from being hot-wired, became mandatory.

But now thieves are looking for new ways to steal the vehicles, and that’s by bypassing the systems.

Gast said there are probably a smaller number of thieves who have that ability, “but they’re after the higher-end vehicles. Those are the ones being facilitated by organized crime and being shipped overseas for significant profit margins. It’s double what they could be sold for here.”

He said thieves are cloning keyless entry fobs by stealing their signal, either from homes or in public areas.

They have devices that can intercept the signal from a key fob even if the keys are inside a house near the front door, and then make a fob clone.

“They can take your car without actually entering your home to steal your keys,” Gast said.

He said the same thing can happen in parking lots if drivers double-check to see if their car is locked by pressing the lock button.

“That opens you up to having the signal intercepted,” Gast said. “Once you’re in the mall or out of sight they’ll drive off with your vehicle.”

He said people steal vehicles to either commit another crime or for parts, to joyride, or to ship overseas. The last category is where most of the high-end vehicles land.

There was a 1.9 per cent increase in the number of stolen vehicles across the country, with Ontario up 17 per cent, Gast said the national numbers represent 1,017 more vehicles stolen in 2018 than in the previous year, with the number reaching 86,132. That’s still 39 per cent lower than what it was a decade ago.

The bureau said auto theft costs Canadians about to $1 billion every year. This includes $542 million for insurers to fix or replace stolen vehicles, $250 million in police, health care and court system costs and millions more for correctional services.

Gast said car owners should avoid leaving a keyless entry fob in a vehicle or near the front door of their home, and should put them in a container or bag designed to block the signal.

Other tips are to install a tracking device that emits a signal to police or a monitoring station, never leaving a vehicle running when unattended, parking in a well lit area and using a steering wheel or brake pedal lock.

The Top 10

  1. 2007 Chevrolet/GMC Suburban/Yukon XL 1500 4DR 4WD
  2. 2015 Ford F350 SD 4WD
  3. 2008 BMW 328/335 4DR AWD
  4. 2011 Mitsubishi RVR 4DR 2WD
  5. 2014 Dodge Charger 4DR
  6. 2004 Ford F250 SD 4WD
  7. 2010 Kia Sportage 4DR 2WD
  8. 2011 Nissan XTerra 4DR 4WD
  9. 2014 Lexus IS 250/IS 350 4DR AWD
  10. 2014 Infiniti QX60 4DR AWD
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