High-Tech Auto Theft Is on the Rise: How to Protect Your Vehicle

Auto theft has always been a troublesome and lucrative black-market business in Canada. But the days of thieves physically breaking into a vehicle and hot wiring it is morphing into a more sophisticated approach as crooks go increasingly high-tech.

Many new vehicles feature a push-button start system or keyless FOB or both. Car thieves are zeroing in on FOBs using a device known as a frequency amplifier or “grabber” that can be bought online for a few bucks. The device detects a FOB’s frequency from inside your home, records it, and relays it to the car. They are then able to use the transmitted or amplified signal from the FOB to unlock a vehicle, start the engine (if it has a keyless or push-button ignition system), and cruise away undetected. Police in Toronto recently alerted car owners to a rash of thefts of newer vehicles with keyless FOBs.

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How Many Vehicles Are Stolen in Canada Each Year?

Though car theft is a decades-old and persistent problem, data suggests the reported motor vehicle theft rate in Canada from 2000 to 2018 is in decline – down by as much as 40% since 2000. However, statistics from the Toronto Police Service shows the number of vehicle thefts in Toronto has been on the climb since 2016, reaching 5,186 vehicles stolen in 2019. So far in Toronto in 2020, 2,760 vehicles have been reported stolen.

Some vehicle models are more susceptible to theft than others. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, the Ford F-Series pickup trucks are among the most popular vehicles thieves target.

You may want to consider installing anti-theft devices to help protect your vehicle. On that note, talk to your car insurance broker or company about any anti-theft discounts for which you may be eligible.

Tips for Protecting Vehicles with Keyless FOBs

If your vehicle uses a keyless FOB, here are a few things you can do to protect it from tech-savvy criminals:

  • Don’t leave a keyless FOB near the front door or window of your home where it’s easy for a frequency amplifier to pick up its short-range signal
  • Consider getting a signal blocking case (also known as a Faraday or key-FOB bag) to store your key FOB in and shield it from frequency amplifiers
  • If possible, park your vehicle in a garage
  • Install an engine immobilizer to prevent thieves from bypassing the ignition
  • Install other anti-theft devices inside your car such as a steering wheel lock or brake pedal lock
  • Install a vehicle tracking system that enables your car to be tracked electronically

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