Northern Ireland news

Signal booster used to steal high value cars in less than 60 seconds

Thieves captured using a signal booster to steal a Range Rover.

ORGANISED crime gangs are using signal boosting technology to relay wireless signals in order to steal high performance cars.

Police have appealed for information following a spate of recent car thefts across Co Down and Co Armagh.

Over 16 high performance cars have been stolen using signal boosters over the last number of weeks. The vehicles are then sold with fake number plates and registration papers or stripped for expensive, high resale value parts.

The cars are being stolen using signal boosting technology to relay the key fob signal from outside the owner's house.

The cars are mainly high performance models such as Range Rovers, BMWs, Lexus and Nissan.

Cars with key fobs that automatically open the vehicle door on approach and with a keyless ignition are targeted by the thieves.

A signal booster is used to open the car door without the key fob.

A victim of the practice recently captured thieves on security camera stealing a Range Rover from the driveway of his property by boosting the signal of the car's key which was inside the house.

The thieves can be seen walking around the perimeter wall of the house activating the signal booster until the door of the car opens. They then push start button, which lets them drive away without having to damage the vehicle.

Detective Inspector Dan Kelly has strongly urged car owners to take the same precautions as they do with home security.

"Establish a routine to help keep your vehicle safe, including using your garage, if available, to secure your vehicle or locking gates to driveways if possible.

"Use physical car locks such as steering column locks and chains, as well as keeping all car keys (including spares) away from exterior doors and walls".

Motorists are also advised to use a blocking pouch, commonly referred to as a Faraday Pouch, lined with metallic material to help block the wireless signal from the key fob.

"Our enquiries are continuing and we would appeal to anyone with any information to contact detectives in Lisburn or Lurgan on 101. Alternatively, information can also be provided to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 11,” Detective Inspector Kelly added.

 

Advice for keyless car owners 

BOOSTING technology used to steal keyless cars is fuelling a huge rise in thefts.

Using a relatively-cheap device to ‘trick’ a vehicle into thinking its entry fob is nearby, it is suspected of contributing to a 44% increase in high value car theft in recent years.

Car manufacturers have said they are working on ways to block the technology, but so far the method of boosting the signal from a key fob has seen an increase in cars such as Range Rover and Lexus stolen in under 60 seconds, without having to damage the car or break into the owner's property to steal the key.

Owners are now being told to store keys overnight in a Faraday pouch, a metal lined pocket used to block electromagnetic fields and available to buy for just a few pounds.

Alternative ways to block the signal boosters, involve placing keys in a metal tin or storing them overnight in a microwave.

A Faraday pouch used to stop car thieves boosting a key fob signal to steal high performance cars.

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