How to beat the hi-tech car crooks

Back in the good old days, a car thief needed little more than a wire coathanger, half a tennis ball and a bit of perseverance to get your door open – failing that a brick through the window would do the trick.
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But as car security has become more advanced, the crooks have had to up their game and are now turning to tech to help steal your wheels.

Car thieves turn hi-tech

Despite not having found a way to thwart the brick-through-the-window approach to car crime, the use of technologies such as keyless entry, on-board computers, alarms, immobilisers and tracking devices should mean it is harder than ever for crooks to make off with your motor. But it isn’t - thieves are using devices known as ‘jammers’ to block the signal sent from your key fob to your car, meaning it’s left unlocked without you realising. Once inside, crooks can then connect a key programming device into the car’s diagnostic port, programme a blank key and drive off. Although jammers are mainly the preserve of thieves who target high-spec performance cars, they could make their way into the mainstream. The technology can be picked up for as little as £50 and electronic intervention methods are thought to now account for over half of all vehicle thefts.
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So what can you do about it?

How to get out of a jam

One way to get around the jammers is to just be vigilant – if you press the fob a couple of times and your car doesn’t lock, it might be worth driving off to another car park or space. It might just be a fault with your locking system, but it could just as easily be a tech-loving criminal, and you can never be too careful. Another option could be to fit a steering wheel lock every time you park. These things were de rigueur among security-conscious car owners about a decade or so ago but seem to have all but disappeared these days, possibly because thieves found a way around them. But anything that makes life harder for them has to be worth a go.

Fight fire with fire

Or you could fight the thieves on the tech front by installing a device such as Trafficmaster’s Trackstar Advance, a new telematics device designed to combat electronic theft and track your vehicle if all else fails. The device has been produced in conjunction with Thatcham Research and is a Thatcham CAT6 product, which means it will provide tracking data with street mapping and a motion sensor. What’s more, the extra security it offers means it could bring down the cost of your car insurance. It also uses sophisticated driver identification technology to stop any unauthorised starting of your engine.

Fobbed off

Alternatively, you could just make sure your car is locked before you walk away from it – just because your car has remote locking, it doesn’t mean you have to lock it by pointing the fob over your shoulder as you walk away. Thinking on, you should probably stop doing that anyway, if for no other reason than it looks daft and impresses no-one – it’s not the 90s you know.
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