Auto Theft Investigators Say “Mystery Devices” Are a Growing Threat

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A poll of professional auto theft investigators from across the globe shows that they are becoming increasingly convinced that mystery devices aimed at breaking into vehicles are getting into the hands of criminals.

At this week’s 63rd Annual Training Seminar of the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators (IAATI), the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) conducted a live poll to assess the awareness of the mostly law enforcement audience concerning the mystery devices.

Based on the unscientific poll, 74 percent said they believe these so-called mystery devices can be used to unlock a vehicle, while 26 percent said they don’t believe these devices work. In addition, 36 percent said they believe the devices can also be used to start and steal a vehicle, although so far, NICB has not confirmed a single reported vehicle theft in the U.S. from this kind of technique.

Only 8 percent said they had actually witnessed a device breaking into or starting a car.

“It was just over a year ago the NICB was the first to warn about the threat of these mystery devices,” said NICB Chief Operating Officer Jim Schweitzer, who conducted the poll. “Last year this was barely a blip on the radar of law enforcement and theft investigators. Now it’s getting everyone’s attention, including the manufacturers who are the front line of defense against these devices.”

Speakers at the Phoenix seminar said recent publicity about hackers deliberately exposing the weaknesses in anti-theft technology may be a good thing.

“To the extent that this does drive more robust software code that is more difficult for some to crack, overall that’s a good thing,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, the former Chief of the Auto Theft Bureau. “But trying to make an industry out of it? I think those are very questionable motives.”

Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800-TEL-NICB (800-835-6422), texting keyword “fraud” to TIP411 (847411) or submitting a form on our website. Or, download the NICB Fraud Tips app on your iPhone or Android device.

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  1. Pingback: The Mystery of the Mystery Device | NICB Blog

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