This “Mystery Device” Can Unlock and Start Your Vehicle

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) says new technology is being used to not only unlock and open vehicles, but to also start and steal them.

NICB recently obtained one of the so-called “mystery devices” that the public was first warned about over two years ago. At the time, thieves were being seen on security cameras across the country, using unknown devices to unlock vehicles and steal valuables inside. In recent months, NICB has noted reports of thieves not only opening the vehicles but also starting them and driving away.

The device obtained by NICB was purchased via a third-party security expert from an overseas company. It was developed by engineers in an effort to provide manufacturers and other anti-theft organizations the ability to test the vulnerability of various vehicles systems. Called a “Relay Attack” unit, this particular model only works on cars and trucks that use a keyless remote and a push-button ignition.

mysterydeviceinfographic-photoversion-final-113016-webIn a series of unscientific tests at different locations over a two-week period, 35 different makes and models of cars, SUVs, minivans and a pickup truck were tested. We partnered with NICB member company CarMax, because they are the nation’s largest used car retailer and have nearly every make and model in their inventory. Tests were also done at a new car dealership, an independent used car dealer, at an auto auction and on NICB employee vehicles and ones owned by private individuals.

The vehicles were tested to see if the device could:
* open the door
* start the vehicle
* drive it away
* turn off and restart the engine without the original fob present

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NICB was able to open 54% of the vehicles that were tested.

The NICB was able to open 19 (54 percent) of the vehicles and start and drive away 18 (51 percent) of them. Of the 18 that were started, after driving them away and turning off the ignition, the device was used to restart 12 (34 percent) of the vehicles.

NICB says there are a number of different devices believed to be offered for sale to thieves. Some use different technology and may work on different make and models and ignition systems. More expensive models may have a greater range and better capabilities for opening and starting a vehicle.

“We’ve now seen for ourselves that these devices work,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. “Maybe they don’t work on all makes and models, but certainly on enough that car thieves can target and steal them with relative ease. And the scary part is that there’s no warning or explanation for the owner. 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.”

Wehrle says it’s important for law enforcement officers to be aware of this threat and be on the lookout for thieves who may be using the technology.

According to NICB’s Chief Operating Officer Jim Schweitzer, who oversees all NICB investigations, vehicle manufacturers must continue their efforts to counter the attacks on anti-theft technology.

“Vehicles are a valuable commodity and thieves will continue to wage a tug of war with the manufacturers to find a way to steal them,” said Schweitzer. “Anti-theft technology has been a major factor in reducing the number of thefts over the past 25 years. The manufacturers have made tremendous strides with their technology, but now they have to adapt and develop countermeasures as threats like this surface.”

A look at the "mystery device" obtained by NICB.

A look at the “mystery device” obtained by NICB.

While there may not be an effective way of preventing this kind of theft at this time, NICB advises drivers to always lock their vehicles and take the remote fob or keys with them. Drivers should also be on the lookout for suspicious persons or activity and alert law enforcement rather than confronting a possible thief.

It’s also a good idea to never invite a break-in by leaving valuables in plain sight. And once thieves get inside, they can easily steal a garage door opener and valuable papers such as the vehicle registration that could lead them to your home. So take the garage door opener with you and take a picture of your registration on your cell phone rather than keeping it in the glove compartment.

 

Car Full of Concrete – Insurance Scam Fail

In this edition of Fraud Files we take a look at how one Houston resident allegedly tried to flood a vehicle to collect on the insurance money. Police in Houston say that the owner of a 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe deliberately tried to get rid of the SUV during the April flooding in the area.

He allegedly put a piece of concrete on the gas pedal and tied the steering wheel using the driver’s side seat belt, then he drove it into the rising flood waters. NICB assisted in the investigation.

 

NICB Urges Illinois Governor to Sign Measure Aimed at Towing Fraud

vintage-tow-wrecker-pick-up-truck_G1Q8XPUO_LThe National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) urges Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner to sign into law Senate Bill 2261 to help protect consumers from the rampant towing fraud that has long plagued the state.

The bill, which has passed both the House and Senate, was supported by NICB, the Illinois Insurance Association and others.

If signed by the Governor, it would create a Statewide Relocation Towing Licensure Commission — a task force that will work over the next year to fully examine the towing laws in the state and report back to the legislature. The commission would have representation from the auto insurance industry in addition to state lawmakers, the towing industry and law enforcement.

In addition SB 2261:

  • Makes it a class 4 felony for a tower to illegally solicit business at an accident scene; and
  • Allows a vehicle owner or the owner’s insurer to file suit against a tower that violates the accident scene solicitation section, including recovery of all attorney fees and court costs.

“This is a major step forward as we attempt to put limitations on the rogue tow operators that have plagued many areas of the state, especially the Chicago area,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. “Motorists should not be subject to predatory towing practices that result in outrageous charges and tactics, such as holding cars hostage in salvage yards until the owner or their insurance company pay what amounts to a ransom to get the vehicle returned.”

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.

Multiple Arrests Made in Theft of Construction Equipment

Seven people have been arrested after an investigation into the alleged theft of several pieces equipment and authorities say that more arrests are possible. Authorities recovered nine skid-steer loaders, two backhoes, a mini excavator, multiple all terrain vehicles, a compact tractor with implements, a large construction excavator and multiple trailers.

The stolen items were brought to Shelby County from Hancock, Hendricks, Hamilton, Marion, Johnson, Monroe and Rush counties from 2008 to 2015 according to authorities.

To view more episodes of Fraud Files click here.

Multiple Arrests in Houston Tow Truck Scam

Houston police have arrested four people accused of a long-running scam that cheated motorists whose cars were towed under the Safe Clear program out of exorbitant tow lot storage fees and vehicle repair charges.

USAAutoThe allegations of organized criminal activity were lodged against individuals associated with USA Auto Collision, a Houston towing company that holds a city Safe Clear contract.

According to police, USA Auto Collision tricked motorists into signing documents – sometimes at the tow scene – authorizing its body shop to perform repairs, and then billed insurance companies for overpriced and sometimes unnecessary work.

Crime Spree Terrorizes NICB Headquarters

The following report is a spoof

DES PLAINES, IL – April 28, 2016 – A rash of burglaries at the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) headquarters in Des Plaines, Illinois has employees and management on high alert. Today, the not-for-profit organization pressed on with their annual “Take Your Kid To Work Day” despite the threat of crime sprees in various departments.

The theme for today’s event was “Law Enforcement” and newly released footage from the company’s headquarters proves that NICB will continue to combat crime and fraud.

Man ID’s Stolen Truck on Craigslist

A Detroit man is accused of stealing a pickup truck and trying to sell it on Craigslist.

Aaron Lockridge allegedly stole and tried to sell a 2002 Ford F-350 on Craigslist.  Lockridge unknowingly sold the pickup to undercover detectives who had been tracking the stolen vehicle after a tip from the original owner.

The original owner contacted the Macomb Auto Theft Squad after he saw the truck listed for sale on Craigslist. Teaming with the Wayne County Auto Theft Team, undercover detectives posed as buyers and made a deal with the seller to buy the pickup for $8,000.

At an arranged meeting, Lockridge arrived in the stolen truck and was arrested. The seized F350 was re-tagged with a vehicle identification number belonging to a 2001 Ford F150 pickup.

Detectives searched the suspect’s home in Detroit where they recovered two stolen motorcycles and a stolen Chevrolet Trailblazer from a garage. The Trailblazer belonging to an active Marine who was away on duty.

 

The Mystery of the Mystery Device

Last March we reported on thieves who are using high-tech electronic devices. These devices would be used to break through the keyless-entry systems that lock up modern cars.

NICBMysteryDevice

A thief breaks into a vehicle using a “mystery device” – NICB

These “mystery devices” can allegedly read the frequencies emitted from key remotes when clicked, but a thief would need to be standing very close by in order to pull that off. How these devices actually work is still a matter of debate, but the National Insurance Crime Bureau believes there’s no evidence they can start a car.

In this edition of Fraud Files we focus on the mystery device trend and a new one that  have become very popular the past year.

To view more episodes of Fraud Files click here.

Vehicle Finance Fraud Conference Registration is Open!

The National Insurance Crime Bureau and Ally Financial are hosting the 2016 Vehicle Finance Fraud Conference to provide current trends and information in the field of investigating financial vehicle fraud.

  • When: Tuesday, May 3 to Wednesday, May 4, 2016
  • Where: Medinah Shriners, 550 N. Shriners Drive, Addison, IL 60101 (Chicagoland suburbs)
  • Fee: Free for NICB Members and members of Law Enforcement. $100 for nonmembers.

Reservation deadline is April 18, 2016. Click here for registration and additional information.

Questions? Contact Ivan Blackman, NICB Director of Vehicle Operations, at iblackman@nicb.org.

To learn more about NICB, visit www.NICB.org.

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