In 2017, 82% of the vans recovered by vehicle security experts TRACKER were stolen without the owner’s keys. That’s a big increase from 2016, when just 44% were stolen without keys.
What’s happening here appears to be that thieves are taking advantage of the growing popularity of keyless entry systems on new vans. You may also have one of these in your car. The vehicle senses when you are nearby and automatically unlocks the doors. Quite often you can then start the engine with a push button without needing to take the key out of your pocket.
Unfortunately there seems to be a price for this convenience. It makes vans easier to steal.
The problem is that thieves don’t necessarily need to steal your keys to unlock your vehicle.
Using a cheap radio device known as a relay the faint signal from the key inside your house can be amplified. This can be enough to fool your vehicle into thinking that the key is close enough to unlock. The thieves can then hop in and drive away.
How to prevent keyless theft
Thieves still like to steal your keys if possible, because it makes it quicker and easier to drive away. The keys can then be kept with the vehicle for onward use.
If you own or rent a van with a keyless entry system, here’s what you should do to help protect yourself from keyless theft:
- Keep the keys out of sight in your house, preferably as far away from the vehicle as possible.
- Another weapon in thieves’ arsenal is the “blocker”, which stops the keyless system locking as you walk away. So check the vehicle is locked when you leave it. The indicator lights will usually flash.
- If you own a vehicle with a keyless system, consider getting a faraday wallet to keep your key in. These only cost a few pounds and will completely block the signal from the key when it’s inside the wallet, preventing relay attacks.
- If you own a car or van with a keyless system, consider getting an old-school Crook Lok or steering wheel lock. These may seem old fashioned, but they can provide a useful extra layer of security. Obviously this isn’t practical when you’re only hiring a van.
Finally, remember to obey all the usual rules. Don’t leave anything of value visible inside your van. If possible, don’t leave expensive tools in the van overnight — replacing these, even if they’re insured, is costly and time consuming.