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Advice & More October 2013

Dollar Sense

Love Your Car’s Remote Entry Key Fob? Thieves Love it Too

By Teresa Ambord

An even worse case is the modern convenience of a car which requires no key to start. You exit the car, hit the key fob to lock it, and moments later, a thief who gets your signal not only has entry to your car, but starting it is as easy as pushing a button… and he’s gone with your car, on the way to a chop shop and you’ll probably never see it again.

What a blessing it was when someone invented the key fob which sends a radio signal to your car lock system, making it easy to secure your car. No more key fumbling, especially in the dark. You could hit the lock/unlock from a distance. When approaching your car at night, the interior light comes on. It’s pretty sweet.

Unfortunately like many other great things, the bad guys may have found a way to spoil it. According to AAA spokesperson Martha Meade, thieves can position themselves in a parking lot, and use radio transmitters to intercept the signal from your key fob. Once they have the signal, they have entry to your car.

“You would think when you walk away from your car, and you’ve got your fob and you click as you’re going away…” your car and everything in it is secure. Meade told reporters, “Guess what? Not so much.”

 

Picture It

You spend a day doing your Christmas shopping and have a carload of treasures. You drive to a restaurant, lock the doors with your key fob, and go into dinner. As soon as you disappear inside, a thief who has intercepted your signal helps himself to whatever is inside, and possibly to your car itself.

At other times, rather than raiding a car when the owner is out in public, a thief waits for the owner to return and intercepts the signal at that time. Armed with a way to get into the car, the thief discretely follows the car owner home. If the car is parked outside, it may be cleaned out of valuable items, or the car itself may be actually stolen.

Many cars come equipped with a key which contains a chip. Without that key/chip the car will not start. This does add a measure of safety against car theft. But don’t count on it too strongly. “These, are obviously people who are serious about stealing cars, so most likely they’re sophisticated enough to figure out how to start it as well, “said Meade.

An even worse case is the modern convenience of a car which requires no key to start. You exit the car, hit the key fob to lock it, and moments later, a thief who gets your signal not only has entry to your car, but starting it is as easy as pushing a button… and he’s gone with your car, on the way to a chop shop and you’ll probably never see it again.

 

What Can You Do?

One suggestion is, when you leave your car, hit the lock button inside. This does not send a radio signal. For some cars, if you hit the lock button and then close your car door, it may seem to be unlocked still. The lock is on a slight delay. After a couple of seconds you may be able to hear it lock, but check to be sure.

The same is true with unlocking your car to get in. Use your key to unlock the driver’s door and then if you have passengers, hit the interior unlock button. Use your key to unlock your trunk as well. It’s not nearly as convenient, but it’s definitely safer.

You may want to consider using an anti-theft device like The Club, which immobilizes the steering wheel, or a kill switch which makes it tricky for thieves to get away. Regardless of where you are parked, always lock your doors, especially if you are driving a car on the “most wanted” list.

 

However…Key Fobs Can be Life Savers

True, there is a downside to the homely little key fob. But there is an upside that is pretty sweet. I keep mine within hands’ reach when I sleep at night. Why? My key fob has a button for a car alarm, as most do. Even from inside my house, through several walls I can point the key fob in the direction of my car and sound the alarm.

What’s so good about that? Suppose I was wakened in the night by an intruder. Hitting the alarm takes a second, and may be enough to throw the intruder off his guard while I call 911. The noise may be enough to scare him off completely.

Also when I have to walk through a dark parking lot, as I approach my car I have my hand on my key fob. If I feel threatened, I know I can hit the alarm button, and create enough noise and attention that I just might save my life.

 

What Cars are Most Likely to be Stolen?

Most people assume thieves are looking for the newest models. But those cars have more complicated technology, which is a deterrent to thieves. Last year, the National Insurance Crime Bureau reported that the cars thieves targeted most were older Honda Civics and Accords. In fact, the number one car on the hit list was the 1996 Honda Accord. Of the top 20 spots on the most stolen list for 2012, sixteen of them are Hondas.

Of cars stolen in 2012, regardless of year, the top 10 were:

  1. Honda Accord
  2. Honda Civic
  3. Ford pickup, full size
  4. Chevrolet pickup, full size
  5. Toyota Camry
  6. Dodge Caravan
  7. Dodge pickup
  8. Acura Integra
  9. Nissan Altima
  10. Nissan Maxima

Among 2012 models, Japanese cars seem to have improved their technology to the point they are way down on the list of cars thieves covet. The 2012 models most likely to be stolen, in order are: Nissan Altima, Chevy Impala, Chevy Malibu, Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Ford pickup (full size) Ford Focus, Chrysler 200, Dodge Charger and Dodge Avenger.

 

Teresa Ambord is a former accountant and Enrolled Agent with the IRS. Now she writes full time from her home, mostly for business, and about family when the inspiration strikes.

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