Toronto

Car theft caught on video shows high-tech thieves stealing Lexus in seconds

Police say newer vehicles with keyless FOB’s are susceptible to theft as suspects appear to be keeping up with advancing technology. 

People are using radio frequency amplifiers to steal cars, police say

A suspect is seen using a radio frequency amplifier, which boosts the signal emitting from a vehicle's FOB located just inside the front door of a house. (Toronto Police Service)

Toronto police are warning car owners about a rash of thefts of newer vehicles equipped with keyless FOBs in Scarborough.

One such "relay theft," as they are known, took place in the area on June 30 and was caught on home surveillance video. Police released video of the incident this week.

In the video, one suspect can be seen pulling out a sensor attached to a computer inside a backpack while standing outside the front door of a house.

The device, which is called a frequency amplifier, increases the range of a car's FOB, police say.

The amplifier then boosts the FOB's frequency to the second suspect's phone as they wait by the Lexus in the driveway. That allows them to fool the car's operating system into recognizing the phone as the FOB, unlock the door, and drive away, police say.

High tech car thefts increasing 

According to Toronto Police data, the number of vehicle thefts in the city have been increasing by the hundreds year over year. So far in 2020 there have been 2,760. 

As theft numbers go up, the police success rate in retrieving stolen vehicles has gone down.

Inspector Jim Gotell says car theft numbers are up year over year in 42 division and beyond. (Michael Aitkens/CBC)

"Around this time last year we would be finding 66 per cent of the cars stolen and currently we're retrieving about 50 per cent of the cars that are stolen," Toronto Police Insp. Jim Gotell told CBC News. 

The longer the vehicles are missing, the more likely it is that they are being shipped overseas for big money, he said.

"When we find the cars they're usually used in another crime such as a robbery and then abandoned," Gotell explained.

"When we don't find a car that indicates to us there's a certain level of sophistication here and that car is likely going to be shipped overseas."

Police say they haven't immediately found the Lexus seen in the video they released. 

Gotell advises that to protect themselves, people should park their vehicle in a garage if possible, and put key FOBs in a signal blocking case like a Faraday cage. He also suggests keeping car keys far away from your front door.

"A wireless key fob has a very short range of signal transmissions and the further it is from the front door, the less likely the signal is to be picked up by someone trying to steal your car," he said.

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