You pull into the grocery store parking lot to pick up a few snacks, and park. As you head for the door, you push a button on your keyless remote to lock it. You don’t hear that faint chirp, but you’re in a hurry. Fifteen minutes later, you discover that your car is gone. Welcome to the world of 21st-century auto theft!
On the surface, things appear to be improving. Vehicle thefts fell 3.3% nationwide in 2011 (the most recent data) for the eighth straight year. However, auto theft still costs the nation an estimated $5.8 billion a year, thanks to streetwise thugs who feed chop shops and supply lucrative international black markets. These days, car thieves are becoming smarter, more tech-savvy, and harder than ever to stop.
Anyone can go to a home-improvement store and buy a $20 device that jams the remote keyless entry transmitter on a vehicle. If you aren’t paying attention, you walk away from your vehicle, press the button on the remote, and assume that it locks. However, a thief might be two cars over in the parking lot, punching a button to block the signal. The vehicle doesn’t lock, and the thief can take your laptop, portable GPS, or whatever else is inside. With enough time, he can even steal the vehicle!
To guard against jammers, pay attention to your surroundings and make sure your car doors do indeed lock when you press the button. Listen for the click or chirp, or look for the quick flash of lights that confirmations locking on most cars. If the vehicle doesn’t lock, try again. However, if locking doesn’t work on the second attempt – or if you see someone lurking nearby – move your car to a different spot.
As the old saying goes, An ounce of prevention…