How to protect your car from key fob thieves

·4 min read
There are a number of steps car owners can take to protect their vehicles. (Getty)
There are a number of steps car owners can take to protect their vehicles. (Getty)

The president of the AA has revealed the lengths he goes to to safeguard his vehicles after his wife's car was stolen – including putting his keyless car fob inside his microwave.

Edmund King urged motorists to take similar steps to protect their cars after his wife's £50,000 Lexus was stolen by hackers who intercepted the key's signal.

His tactics include putting the fob in a Faraday bag, which has metal mesh lining to disrupt the signal, as well as putting it inside a metal box.

It is then put inside a microwave in the back of his home away from the road.

King's advice comes amid a 22% increase in car thefts in the past year, as technology creates new ways for criminals to steal vehicles.

What is the car key fob scam?

Keyless fobs and apps may make it easier for motorists to get into their vehicles - but they've also opened up a new way for criminals to get their hands on them too.

There are several ways that hackers can steal cars using tech to access people's keys or security technology.

Thieves can use signal relaying - also known as 'relay theft' - when wireless transmitters are held close to someone's pocket or handbag, or maybe their house, to capture the radio signal emitted by a key fob to unlock the vehicle.

Signal jamming is also a known tactic where thieves stop the vehicle from being locked in the first place by hiding a device near the car on the same frequency, allowing it to stay unlocked.

Key programming uses a device developed by hackers that plugs into a diagnostic port in the car, then allows them to programme a blank key fob as if it's the genuine key for that car.

Once done, that copy can be used to start the engine as well as unlock the doors, essentially creating a fake 'key'.

How can I protect my car?

There are plenty of ways to protect your car from hackers and keyless fob theft, from physical locks to the way you park, as well as your own measures to block criminals' tech.

  • Signal blocking technology

Like the AA's president, you can block your key's signal from being open to hackers.

A Faraday pouch uses metal-lined material to stop radio signals from being at the mercy of thieves, or you can use an aluminium tin or signal blocking box.

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AA president Edmund King said he places his keys inside a pouch, which he then places inside a box before placing in his microwave oven.
AA president Edmund King said he places his keys inside a pouch, which he then places inside a box before placing them in his microwave.
  • Switch off the key fob at night

Some key fobs can be switched off so if you have one that can, try to do so at night to prevent thieves from accessing it.

Some fobs also have a motion sensor which means the fob stops transmitting a signal if it’s left idle for a certain amount of time, making it impossible to use the relay technique.

  • Fit old-fashioned locks

Nowadays we love technology but sometimes the old-fashioned methods work best.

Try a steering wheel lock, which makes driving away impossible.

Read more: How to use your car’s air conditioning effectively during the hot weather this summer

Less technological methods like a wheel clamp or steering lock can be valuable car theft deterrents. (Getty)
Less technological methods like a wheel clamp or steering lock can be valuable car theft deterrents. (Getty)

You can also get locks for the diagnostic port in your car which would stop thieves from accessing it to programme a key.

  • Fit a tracker

They won't necessarily stop your car being stolen, but they might help you find it, which in turn acts as a deterrent.

Trackers will help monitor unusual activity, alerting you if your car looks like it's somewhere that it shouldn't be, as well as allowing you to track it if it's stolen.

  • Think about where and how you park

Parking in a garage or out of the way means thieves might not spot it and make it a target.

Other advice is to park 'defensively', which means parking in a way that makes your vehicle hard to access.

For example, consider not reversing your car into your drive, as having to reverse out adds crucial seconds which might put off a potential car thief.

Police advise that if you have more than one car, park the less desirable vehicle in front of it to block it in.

  • Make sure your home's secure

There's no point investing in tech to protect your car if thieves can simply waltz into your house and take them.

Locking your house properly and investing in CCTV, smart doorbells and alarms all act as a deterrent if someone was planning on trying to get to your keys.

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