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

deviceinaction

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.

 

‘Tis the Season to Steal

cr122k15-gift_car_openerWhen you’re making the rounds at the stores this holiday season, make sure your car isn’t on someone’s gift list. Unattended vehicles, especially those loaded with valuables, make attractive targets for thieves.

New data released today by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) shows a total of 9,600 vehicles were reported stolen in 2015 on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Holiday vehicle thieves had their busiest day in 2015 on Halloween, stealing 2,238 vehicles according to NICB’s 2015 Annual Holiday Vehicle Theft Report. Theft data is culled from the National Crime Information Center’s (NCIC) stolen vehicle file, which showed a total of 759,237 vehicle thefts for the year.

After Halloween, New Year’s Eve was the next most active holiday with 2,227 thefts. Labor Day came in third with 2,171 thefts followed by Christmas Eve with 2,071 thefts. Memorial Day rounds out the top five holidays for 2015 with 2,040 thefts.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the holidays with the fewest thefts in 2015 were: Christmas Day (1,620); Thanksgiving (1,653); Valentine’s Day (1,690); President’s Day (1,787) and Independence Day (1,981).

Holidays ranked by the number of thefts in 2015 were:

  1. Halloween (2,238)
  2. New Year’s Eve (2,227)
  3. Labor Day (2,171)
  4. Christmas Eve (2,071)
  5. Memorial Day (2,040)
  6. New Year’s Day (2,029)
  7. Independence Day (1,981)
  8. President’s Day (1,787)
  9. Valentine’s Day (1,690)
  10. Thanksgiving (1,653)
  11. Christmas Day (1,620)

While the holiday with the most thefts was Halloween, the most thefts on a single day in all of 2015 occurred on Monday, June 15, with 2,579.

A special feature included in today’s report is a look at vehicle thefts occurring on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, which is widely viewed as the start of the holiday shopping season. In recent years, many national retailers have launched Black Friday specials on Thanksgiving evening while families may still be carving their turkeys.

The lure of added shopping hours—and the presence of unattended vehicles in store parking lots—may be contributing to higher vehicle thefts on Black Friday.

The following graph shows the number of vehicle thefts reported on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday from 2011 through 2015. There are, on average, over 30 percent more vehicle thefts on Black Friday than the day before. Moreover, the 2,244 thefts on Black Friday in 2015 were more than the 2,080 average daily thefts for the entire year.

 Year Thanksgiving Day  Black Friday   % Increase
2011  1,526 2,034 33
2012  1,656 2,077 25
2013  1,353 1,750 29
2014  1,384 1,838 33
2015  1,653 2,244 36


NICB reminds drivers this holiday season to make sure your vehicle is locked when unattended. Don’t leave spare keys or FOBS inside. Take a moment and be sure to hide your valuables from view. Even an empty backpack looks appealing to a thief from the outside.

If stopping at several locations to shop, remember to first store your packages in your trunk before leaving one destination for the next. Thieves are known to watch shoppers who place items in their trunks and then head for the stores—that invites trouble.

See the full holiday vehicle theft report here and an infographic here.

2015nicbholidaytheftreport

Top Insurance Fraud Stories for April 17, 2015

Here are the top fraud stories in the news today:

* Digital Car Thieves on the Rise (NICB Blog)

* Two Brooklyn landlords arrested for fraud (PIX 11)

* Dentist charged with fraud (MIX 97FM)

* 3 Subcontractors of True Religion Brand Jeans Arrested on $78M Work Comp (KCAL 9)

*How Canadian insurance companies are cracking down on fake claims (Financial Post)