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Relay Theft - The theft of keyless ignition cars

Crime Reduction Officer PC Irvine advises that over the last few days there have been several thefts of ‘keyless’ vehicles in Aberdeen. This type of theft has been a major problem further south in Scotland with Tayside badly effected recently. The type of vehicles most effected are those that automatically unlock as you approach with your keys, without you having to push any buttons on the key fob. 


Relay theft, also known as keyless theft, is a technique thieves use to steal cars with keyless entry systems. Here's how it works:

  • Tricking the signal: Criminals use a device to amplify the signal from your key fob, even if it's inside your house.

  • Relaying the signal: Another device receives the amplified signal and relays it to the car, making the car believe the key fob is nearby.

  • Unlocking and starting the car: Thinking the key is present, the car unlocks and allows the thieves to start the engine and drive away.

  • This can all happen very quickly and silently, but it can easily be prevented, just see the following 12 helpful tips will help protect your vehicle:


    Signal Suppression Pouch/Box (Farraday Pouch etc) – A practical way of managing the signal(s) sent out by the vehicle’s key fob. Conduct diligent research into the quality of the product you are looking to buy. Consider the materials any pouch/box is made from and the manufacturing processes that have gone into making it. Are you trusting the security of a high value vehicle to a product that only costs a few pounds? Then use of signal suppression pouches/boxes should be used in conjunction with other measures. 


    Spare Keys – Do you know where your spare key-fobs are? How many spare keys do you have for your keyless vehicles? When not in use, consider removing the battery from the spare keys so that there are fewer examples of the same key frequency available for the Keyless car thieves to capture. 


    Location of keys when not in use – Think where you leave your keys when at home. Whilst not full-proof, the more central the keys are placed within a home environment, the better. Do not leave keys close to the front door however practical it may be. In conjunction with other steps 


    Consult your Vehicle’s Manufacturer – Customers are encouraged to speak to their vehicle’s manufacturer about preventative advice including changing the vehicle’s security and convenience settings. Sometimes convenience functions can be disabled (*Additional fees/costs may be applicable).


    Physical Equipment Locks /Aftermarket Security Devices – Steering wheel locks, Gear level locks or ‘Pedal Box’ – The first two are self-explanatory and are more of an traditional means to deter thieves. Whilst themselves not being full-proof they offer a degree of protection due to the time required by the thief to disable them. When used in conjunction with other methods, they may well just be a great and cost effective investment. A Pedal Box is a bright yellow metal box that is made to fit your car, wrapping around the foot pedals. It has a lock on the box and prevents the pedals from being accessed. Being yellow it can be easily seen and may ward off any potential thieves early. Heavy, power tools which are noisy would need to be used which would discourage most thieves from attempting to steal the vehicle. Again, in conjunction with other methods, these can offer a really good, effective deterrent. 


    Home CCTV – Do you have CCTV covering your property and vehicle(s)? CCTV can be a great deterrent to potential criminals as well as offering you peace of mind. It can also help the Police with any investigations they conduct. From cameras that attach to the house as well as doorbell cameras. Both of which relay images/notifications to your smart phone. If you have CCTV, make sure lenses are clean and free of obstructions – garden foliage, cobwebs. Also, do you know how to review footage if it a crime has occurred?


    Garages – If you have a garage, is there space to store your keyless vehicle inside it? If so, this will not only hide it from view but it will also act as a further barrier to thieves.


    Bollards / Driveway Gates – Both can be effective in offering a physical barrier to deter potential thieves. If you have them fitted, do you use them and do you lock them? Consider your locking options with the gates you have and lock them each night time. 


    Non Keyless Vehicles – These can be positioned on the driveway either in front of or behind a keyless vehicle, so as to make it more difficult to steal and thus reducing the chances thieves will target your keyless vehicle.


    Insurance Cover – Do you have the appropriate insurance policy to cover your losses in the event that your car is stolen? Gap Insurance is an additional expense but it covers the difference between what you paid for the car and its current market value in the event that it is stolen. With some vehicles stolen depreciating heavily in just a few years, this may result in you not being able to replace your vehicle with a similarly specified one. 


    Vehicle Tracking devices – Does your vehicle have a tracking device fitted? If stolen, the chances of the vehicle being recovered improve greatly when one is fitted. Many different Vehicle Tracker companies exist currently offering a variety of payment/security plans. Do your research. It may even result in lower Insurance premiums.


    Valuables inside vehicles – When a vehicle is stolen, whatever is left inside it is also stolen too. Please do not leave valuables in your car overnight unnecessarily.


    This messaging system is not for reporting crime as responses are not monitored 24/7.  If you have time-critical information regarding the content of the above message, or if you wish to report any other non-urgent matter, please call 101.  In an emergency, call 999.

    Police Scotland's North East Division covers rural and urban areas in Moray, Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City.  The division has five territorial command areas which have their own dedicated Area Commander, who is responsible for the daily policing function.  Each command area is served by a number of community policing teams whose activities are built around the needs of the local community.  These teams respond to local calls and look for long term solutions to key issues.  They are assisted by the division's Crime Reduction Unit who deliver against Force and local priorities in a number of areas, including physical and social crime prevention, supporting and enhancing community engagement and creating and sustaining strong and effective partnership working.


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    Message Sent By
    Mark Irvine
    (Police Scotland, Constable, A Div - Grampian)

    Neighbourhood Alert Cyber Essentials