Motorists ‘powerless’ against mystery device

Motorists owning cars with push-button ignitions could be powerless to prevent thieves stealing their vehicles.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) says it has obtained and tested a mystery device that allows thieves to break into and drive cars away without leaving any evidence.

The device works by picking up a signal from the vehicle’s key fob from a distance of up to 10 feet. Once the signal is received, the device transfers the data to a smaller relay box that can be used to unlock and start the vehicle.

NICB spokesman Roger Morris said the bureau, working with used-car retailer CarMax, tested the device on 35 makes and models at various locations, including new- and used-car dealerships, in the Chicago area over a two-week period. He said the NICB was able to open 19 of the vehicles and was able to drive away in 18.

He said it is impossible to know how many vehicles might have been stolen using these devices because no evidence is left behind.

NICB CEO Joe Wehrle said in a statement, ‘Unless someone catches the crime on a security camera, there’s no way for the owner or the police to really know what happened. Many times, they think the vehicle has been towed.’

Vehicle owners have been urged to keep valuable items out their vehicles, keep their key fobs on them at all times and park in secure or crowded areas whenever possible.

However, he admitted that completely preventing such thefts might prove to be impossible. ‘If these thieves know the device works on a certain make and model, I don’t know there’s a lot you can do about it right now.’