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  • Abbie Jones

The Most Common Car Theft Techniques and How to Foil Them


person using screwdrivers to break into a car door lock


Car Theft is unfortunately on the rise in the UK. Analysis from the Office of National Statistics shows that there were 130,389 vehicles stolen in the UK in 2022, compared to 104,435 stolen in the UK in 2021. Not only this, but according to the AA Insurance Services, theft from vehicles has also increased by 9.9%, with 212,900 people having items stolen from their vehicle in 2022, up from 193,647 in 2021 in the UK.


The Most Common Car Theft Techniques

  • Car Key 'Fishing'

  • Relay theft

  • Transponder Key Cloning

  • Catalytic Converter Theft

  • Turbo Decoder Theft


Car Key Fishing

Most people tend to leave their car keys by the front door for ease, whether on a hook or in a bowl, but this has led to a type of car theft called 'fishing'.


Using your letterbox, a thief will insert a stick with a hook to try and grab your car keys and make off with your car. Hence, the nickname fishing.


How To Prevent Car Key Fishing

There are a few things that you can do to prevent car key fishing, getting a letterbox guard is a great option as it keeps your front door more secure whilst also helping to prevent fishing! Likewise, you should consider a safe place away from your front door to keep your keys, out of sight of windows or doors is always better for car and home security!


Relay Theft

Relay theft is becoming a more popular and effective way for thieves to break into keyless entry vehicles, as it involves more than one person, making the job of stealing easier for them. Relay theft involves a group of thieves working together to clone the signal that your keys emit to unlock your keyless entry car.


The way the relay theft works is that one member will stand outside a home with a transmitter hoping to clone the signal from a car key. Because the majority of people will leave their keys by the front door, this then enables a relay attack to become successful. After receiving the signal from the key inside the home, one thief will send that signal to another member who will be standing next to the vehicle with a receiver. What happens next is that the signal then relays from the key fob to the transmitter, to the receiver, and then to the car, which will unlock. Because of keyless entry systems in modern vehicles, if thieves have managed to do this successfully and unlocked the car, they can just drive away with the car because of the keyless start.


How to Prevent Relay Theft

If your vehicle is a keyless entry vehicle and you are worried about being a victim of relay theft, then faraday bags act as a great signal blocker to help prevent this. Faraday bags are signal blockers designed to shield electronic devices from transmitting or receiving signals. They are made out of a material that can block electromagnetic fields, effectively isolating devices. This physical barrier prevents any authorised access attempts, safeguarding your vehicle and personal belongings.


Transponder Key Cloning

Transponder car key cloning can happen when you least expect it, for example, when you hand over your keys to a valet service or let someone test drive a car that you're selling. Anytime you entrust your keys to a stranger, your key might be at risk of cloning.


Usually, thieves will accept your keys and once out of your sight will copy the unique code transmitted by your car key and copy it to a blank key.


They then return your key back to you, and you have no idea that your key has just been cloned. This means that they now have a duplicate of your key car, meaning that they could enter your vehicle at any time, and drive away.


How to Prevent Transponder Key Cloning

When leaving your keys unattended with someone, always try and use a business where you can check their credentials or use a company that has been recommended to you. Always check how long they've been in business and what their reviews are like before handing your keys over.


If you suspect that your car key has been cloned, call us today on 01202 057555, and we can deprogram any key you might suspect to have been copied and provide your with new car keys!


Catalytic Converter Theft

Catalytic converters are devices fitted to vehicle exhausts to reduce the number of dangerous gasses. These are a big target for thieves however, as they contain valuable metals such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium that can be removed in less than a minute.


This type of theft mostly happens in car parks, and then the converters are sold by thieves online, or to another country. Although any vehicle can be at risk of a catalytic converter attack, hybrid vehicles are the most commonly targeted. Here are a list of vehicles that are targeted by catalytic converter theft the most:

  • Ford F Series Truck

  • Honda Accord

  • Toyota Prius

  • Honda CR-V

  • Ford Explorer

  • Ford E-150 Econoline

  • Chevrolet Equinox

  • Chevrolet Silverado


How to Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft


Park in 'Safer' Areas

The best thing to do to avoid being a victim of catalytic converter theft would be to park your car in a garage overnight. However, if this isn't possible, park in a well-lit and out-of-the-way location where potential thieves can't easily reach the converter. A good way to do this would be too back-up close against another car or a wall, so there is no room for them.


Register and Label Your Converter

Registering and labelling your converter with a forensic marker will make it harder for criminals to get rid of it. Engraving or etching your vehicle identification number (VIN) or number plate number on your catalytic converter may deter theft and assist police in recovering your part if it is discovered.


Turbo Decoder Theft

Turbo decoder theft involves targeting manual door locks. As a turbo decoder turns, the spigots align to the shape of the empty keyhole and it reproduces the format of the key. Turbo decoders are easy to buy online because Auto Locksmiths will often use these to gain entry to cars when called out by a customer.


How to Prevent Turbo Decoder Theft


Install an Alarm

Installing a high security car alarm will deter opportunity burglars; once the loud noise begins and it attracts too much attention, they are more likely to leave the car alone than carry on.


A smart car alarm will send you a notification on your phone, and you can lock and unlock your car with your smartphone. They also include trackers, allowing you to track your vehicle if it is broken into.


Universal Wheel Lock

A universal wheel lock can be fitted onto one of your car's front wheels, and is not only a great physical deterrent, but a great visual deterrent as well, as car thieves will see the universal wheel lock on your wheels and be immediately put off by it.



To find out more about car security and what measures you can take to prevent your car from being a victim of car theft through our car advice pages and blogs!

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