Ford may be the country’s favourite car brand – but they are also the motors that are most commonly stolen, a police commissioner has warned owners.
The number of Fords taken in the West Midlands so far this year – 1,557 – has more than trebled from the 489 in 2015 following the spate of keyless car crime that’s become an industry epidemic.
David Jamieson, the region’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said a total of 5,527 vehicles in total had been stolen in the area in 2019 so far – twice the amount of motor thefts recorded just four years earlier – blasted car makers for being ‘far too slow’ to introduce systems to prevent remote vehicle thefts.
Ford may be the country’s favourite car brand – but they are also stolen the most, a police commissioner warns (pictured, stock of a keyless entry Fiesta). The number taken in the West Midlands so far this year – 1,557 – has more than trebled from the 489 in 2015
Mr Jamieson released a list of the brands that have been targeted most commonly by thieves in the West Midlands so far in 2019 in a bid to shame manufacturers for not doing more to block so-called ‘relay’ crime.
He hopes the stats will encourage the motor industry to increase measures to tackle keyless thefts – where a key or key card may only need to be in the vicinity of a vehicle, not in the ignition, for thieves to access the car.
Fords topped the list, with a 218 per cent increase in thefts in the four-year period.
The stats suggest that a huge number of drivers across the country should be concerned, with Ford being the nation’s favourite car brand in recent history.
By the end of July, a total of 144,838 new Fords have been registered in the UK, latest market figures show.
Of these, 48,943 were Fiestas and 36,102 were Focus models – making them the two most-bought new cars of the year so far.
The addition of keyless entry and keyless ignition across Ford’s range – even the small and affordable Fiesta, which has been the best-selling model in the UK for over a decade – means they are just as susceptible to remote thefts as luxurious SUVs and pricey luxury motors.
Mercedes (stock picture of a keyless entry Mercedes) has seen an even more alarming increase, with 529 stolen so far this year, as opposed to 114 in 2015
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And owners of premium brands are equally as vulnerable to the keyless crimewave.
Mercedes owners have becoming increasingly under threat, with 529 stolen from owners in the West Midlands so far this year, as opposed to the 114 taken from the area in 2015.
Mr Jamieson also revealed that 432 Audis have been stolen in 2019 to date, against 199 four years ago, with criminals targeting the high-value motors to order.
Criminals carrying out relay thefts work in teams of two, using equipment to capture electromagnetic signals emitted by keyfobs, with one thief standing by the car with a transmitter, while the other stands by the house with device that picks up the signal from the electronic key, opening the vehicle’s door
According to the latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics, car thefts in England and Wales rose by by nine per cent in 2018.
A total of 113,037 cases of stolen vehicles were reported to the police last year, the ONS confirmed as part of its full-year crime figures.
Some of the newest cars can be stolen in less than 10 seconds…
Some of Britain’s newest and most popular car models with keyless entry systems are at risk of being stolen in record time – with some tested models being driven away in just ten seconds, according to a new investigation.
Criminals carrying out relay thefts work in teams of two, using equipment to capture electromagnetic signals emitted by keyfobs, with one thief standing by the car with a transmitter, while the other stands by the house with device that picks up the signal from the electronic key, opening the vehicle’s door.
Seven models with keyless entry and start technology – from Land Rover, DS, Ford, Mercedes, BMW and Audi – were tested by What Car?, who tasked two security experts from Edilock with entering and driving away the vehicles to test their vulnerability to potential criminals.
What Car? reported that the security team gained access to a DS3 Crossback Puretech 155 Ultra Prestige in just five seconds, and drove away in the same amount of time, using the relay attack technique.
‘I won’t let up on car manufacturers until theft levels return to those last seen in 2015’, the police commissioner said.
‘I’ve been saying for a long time now that manufacturers have taken their eye off the ball when it comes to vehicle security.
‘It’s a disgrace that buyers are being sold cars with nineteenth century levels of protection.
‘The progress which car manufacturers are taking to prevent keyless thefts is far too slow.’
Ford responded to Mr Jamieson’s comments, saying: ‘We have new security on the Fiesta and Focus keyless fobs which block illegal hacking.’
Audi also responded. ‘We are continually working on improving our security measures,’ a spokesperson said.
AA president Edmund King said the rise in vehicle thefts was ‘very worrying’.
‘One area of concern is the increase of cars with keyless entry being stolen,’ he added.
‘When it comes to stealing cars, thieves have changed their tactics from ‘smash and grab’ to ‘bounce and roll’, as they bounce the radio signals off the key to unlock the car and roll away with it.
‘Having access to your keys is the easiest way for a thief to steal your car, so drivers need to ensure they protect them properly.’
How you can protect your car from keyless car thefts
by Grace Gausden, This is Money Reporter
The ABI provided some tips on how you can keep your car safe:
Car security basics: Ensure your vehicle is parked in a well-lit or secure area, properly locked and all valuables are removed.
Once in your home or office, ensure your car keys are as far away from doors and windows as possible, preferably shut inside a drawer.
Signal-blocking Faraday pouches: Don’t assume that wrapping your key in foil will do a good enough job.
As keyless car crime has spiked, several anti-theft pouches have hit the market that are designed to block signals emitted by the key.
The idea is simple – keep your key inside the Faraday pouch when not in use, and special material will prevent a relay amplifier from picking up its unique signal and transmitting it.
We’d recommend only buying these from a reputable outlet, however, and looking for reviews and accreditation to ensure it will work.
Switch off the key: The wireless signal from some keyless fobs can be turned off, although the feature isn’t always obvious and can require a combination of button presses.
Consult the manual or contact the manufacturer to find out if this is possible for the keys to your car.
Switching off the key should certainly thwart keyless car thieves, and could also be recommended when heading off on holiday.
It’s also worth checking with the manufacturer if any software updates are available, as it may be that a system for preventing keyless car theft has been developed since you got your car.
Physical security measures: As criminals turn to technology, many owners are resorting to low-tech physical security devices like steering wheel locks and driveways with locked gates or barriers.
Make life difficult for thieves in this way and even if they can unlock the car, hopefully they won’t be able to drive away in it.
Many criminals will also move on to an easier target when faced with extra security that’s time consuming and noisy to defeat.
Tracking devices: It’s possible to subscribe to a security company like Tracker, which can fit a tracking device to your car and use it to trace its location if it’s stolen.
According to the company, 96 per cent of cars fitted with its technology are recovered when stolen, compared with just 50 per cent in other cases.
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