Own a car with keyless entry? You’re a target for these crooks
It's no longer considered a "mystery device."
The National Insurance Crime Bureau, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing insurance fraud and vehicle theft, says it now has its hands on a tool that thieves have been using to access locked vehicles and, in some cases, drive away in them.
While there is no hard evidence proving the devices are being used in the Garden State, a NICB spokesman said New Jersey is not immune, and anyone who owns a car with a keyless remote and push-button ignition can be targeted.
The Bureau first warned the public about the devices more than two years ago when thieves were caught on security cameras throughout the country using devices to unlock vehicles and steal valuables.
In recent months, however, the Bureau was alerted of incidents in which thieves were not only opening the vehicles, but starting them and driving away.
Through a third-party security expert, NICB obtained one of the devices known as a Relay Attack unit and learned just how easily certain vehicles can be accessed.
Over a two-week period, NICB members tested the device on 35 different makes and models at various locations. They were able to open 19 of the vehicles and drive away with 18 of them.
"Unfortunately, criminals are obtaining these through the internet," NICB spokesman Roger Morris told New Jersey 101.5. "It's kind of like a hacker network."
Morris said a number of different types of these devices are up for grabs. Their prices could range based on the model, and some may work on different vehicles and ignition systems. The technology was originally developed to help manufacturers and anti-theft organizations test the vulnerability of various vehicles' systems.
"The scary part is that there's no warning or explanation for the owner," said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. "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."
The New Jersey State Police could not immediately comment Thursday on whether these devices are being used in this state.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at email@example.com.