car theft

Thieves Can Hack Key Fobs to Steal Cars. Here's a Wild Story and How to Stop Theft

“It’s terrible that this can happen. This is a soldier who’s trying to make something of himself, all the way in Kuwait"

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You click your key fob to open your car and no matter how many times you push it, it won’t open. Or worse yet, your car is nowhere to be found. 

Thieves can now hack key fobs using what’s called signal boosting. 

A U.S. soldier serving in Kuwait recently had his car stolen twice from outside his home in Maryland after the key fob was apparently reprogrammed. 

Here’s what happened to him and how to prevent your key fob from being hacked. 

A U.S. soldier named John is stationed in Kuwait. His black Infiniti sedan was parked at his apartment near Prince George’s Plaza. His fiancée, Adrian, would check on his car from time to time. News4 is not using their full names because they could be in danger, with the thief still at large. 

Adrian went to check on Soldier John’s car on Oct. 11 and it was gone. She and her mother, Nurse Addi, used a “Find My Car” app to track it down. After 10 hours, they found the Infiniti in Hyattsville. But the key fob wouldn’t work. 

It appeared the thief had a fake fob and blocked the real fob from working. 

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“It’s terrible that this can happen. This is a soldier who’s trying to make something of himself, all the way in Kuwait,” Nurse Addi said. 

Adrian and Nurse Addi called Soldier John in Kuwait and he was able to open the car using his computer. 

Soldier John (Courtesy of family)

They called police, who found bogus tags on the car, a gun and some marijuana. 

As they were standing there, a man walked up, got into the car and drove off. 

“He steals the car in front of the police and in front of us,” Nurse Addi said. 

Adrian and Nurse Addi were able to get the car back. But then it was stolen a second time. 

This time, the mother and daughter detective team tracked it and found it in D.C., on Lincoln Road. The driver took off and stopped at a self-storage unit on Florida Avenue. 

They said they saw him get out, pick up some items, take a swig of whiskey and keep driving, heading to Northeast and then Southeast. 

“We just kind of became the police because we had this tracking,” Nurse Addi said. 

After almost 10 hours, the Infiniti came to rest in Foggy Bottom. The car was found near the Metro station. 

Police found more bogus tags and, inside the car, another gun. The thief was long gone. 

As of Tuesday night, Soldier John’s car was safe, under lock and key in an undisclosed garage. 

A consumer alert about key fobs and how hackers can use them to steal cars. Consumer Reporter Susan Hogan reports on how to prevent key fobs from being hacked.

How to Prevent Your Key Fob From Being Hacked

Hackers use a device that tricks your car and fob into thinking they’re close to each other. Within seconds, they can unlock and even turn on your car. 

News4 is working for you and has these tips on how to prevent your key fob from being hacked: 

  • Block the signals from reaching your key fob in the first place. Look for products that block electromagnetic and radio frequency. Faraday bags or cages are highly recommended. 
  • You could put your key fob in a metal container, such as a safe. Even a fridge will do, though it’s not 100% foolproof.
  • Keep your key as far away from your car as possible. This makes it harder for malicious signals to reach your key fob.
  • Use other devices, such as a steering wheel lock. At least the thieves won’t be able to drive off with your car.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau has these additional tips on preventing auto theft, including using steering column collars, brake locks and wheel locks. 

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