Car theft is on the rise once again in England and Wales with keyless entry systems said to be the among the biggest causes.

The number of car theft cases has increased by 15% compared to 2016-17, and up by 40% over the last five years according to the recently released figures.

In the wake of the worrying statistics vehicle tracking and telematics firm Tracker is warning motorists to increase their level of car security. The firm says 80% stolen vehicles that it recovered last year were taken without using the owner’s keys.

“We are seeing more and more keyless car theft taking place across the country,” said Clive Wain, Head of Police Liaison at Tracker. “It’s fair to say that criminals continue to stay one step ahead of manufacturers and ‘relay attack’ is one method car thieves have increasingly adopted.”

“This involves two criminals working together using an electronic signal relay to intercept a key fob signal usually from within the victim’s home. Cars are being stolen and driven off within seconds,” he added. “It’s clear that people are unintentionally leaving themselves vulnerable to these kinds of attack, by putting their keys in easy reach of relay devices.”

A from the Association of British Insurers spokesman explained that the vulnerabilities of keyless entry systems were being exploited by criminals using pairs of radio transmitters to capture the signal from the vehicle’s fob, as well as other methods.

The spokesman added: “The theft risk will be one of many factors taken into account by insurers when assessing the price of your insurance policy.”

As well as one of Tracker’s security systems, other additional security measures suggested include steering wheel locks, locking wheel clamps, pedal box locks that encase the clutch and brake pedals, locking driveway posts, on-board diagnostic port (OBD) locks, VIN window etching – making your vehicle much less attractive to car cloners, and even simply keeping your car in a locked garage

“The good news is there are simple precautions people can take,” added Wain. “Whilst the relay devices can receive signals through walls, doors and windows, metal is its enemy, so putting keys in a metal tin or the microwave is a cost-effective way to thwart the criminals. Alternatively, invest in a metallised signal blocking pouch, such as a Faraday wallet, which is designed to shield electronic keys from relay attacks.”

“It’s also worth remembering that vehicle security should be multi-layered and shouldn’t just rely on the keyless security system. Physical barriers, such as crook locks and wheel clamps will deter thieves. And whilst investing in a tracking device won’t stop a car being stolen, it can significantly increase the chances of police locating it and returning it to the rightful owner. This, plus added vigilance, dramatically contributes to keeping thieves at bay.”

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