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Relay theft - what is it and are you at risk?

Posted on January 5, 2018
Car tech has seriously come on leaps and bounds in the last 20 years. From manual locks to keyless entries, from tape-deck entertainment systems to Bluetooth smartphone connectivity, and it’s all centred around making our driving experience better, and keeping us safe. However, because of the tech in the way that we lock our car, police data has revealed that car theft has increased by 30% in the UK - and you could be at risk.

The pair of thieves in the video above are demonstrating just what Relay Theft is. Because of the signal that your key emits, using a pair of radio transmitters, and the hope that the keyless ‘key’ is somewhere easily accessible in the house. The first device picks up the signal from the wireless keys, sends it to the second device, which then sends it to the car - tricking it into thinking that the key is present.

This system only works, however, if the car has a keyless ignition system, and provided there is nothing in the car to steal, there is only so much they can get. But for new car owners with the latest wireless keys, and keyless ignition tech - this is a serious worry.

An FOI request from the RAC revealed that in 2013 65,789 vehicles were stolen to 40 police forces in England and Wales, and this has risen to 85,688 in 2016. As the more digitally connected crimes occur, occasionally the more ‘old fashioned’ solutions can occasionally be the most effective. The RAC recommends purchasing an old-school steering wheel lock, acting as a physical deterrent.

However, a more 21st-century solution is something known as a ‘Faraday Sleeve’ drawing on inspiration from the famous Faraday Cage - a mesh that prevents electricity, electromagnetic and radio signals from passing through. These can be purchased on Amazon, or from bespoke companies, and they can block the signal from leaving your key when placed in the sleeve. The more expensive ones can cost up to £100, but in reality, it’s a small price to pay when the safety of your car is on the line.