Blight van man: huge rise in van theft as crooks defeat keyless systems

Blight van man: huge rise in theft of vans with 'smart keys'

Relay theft is a growing problem

IT’S BEING called the blight of van man, or woman. Figures reveal there has been a staggering 100% rise in the theft of vans taken without the owner’s keys.

Security experts are warning that crooks are increasingly switching their attention from stealing luxury cars to commercial vehicles, in the hope of securing a double bounty – the van and its contents.

Last year, 82% of vans – light commercial vehicles – were stolen without the owner’s keys, according to recovery figures provided by Tracker, a provider of vehicle security. In 2016, the mix stood at just 44%, for vehicles stolen and recovered by the company.

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The rising problem is put down to more vans being fitted with so-called keyless ignition systems, where the driver is able leave their key in their pocket and sensors in the vehicle know when it is in close proximity, unlocking the doors when the handle is pulled.

Crooks are able to bypass such systems in a matter of seconds, using cheap, widely available gadgets that trick the key and vehicle into sending and accepting signals between one another.

Last year, West Midlands Police released CCTV footage showing the moment a Mercedes was stolen from outside a home, using the new ‘relay theft’ technique. It takes less than a minute to intercept the key’s signal, fool the vehicle’s security systems and drive away into the night.

“Keyless entry technology has now been widely adopted in the LCV market, and this is evident in the fact that last year there was a two-fold increase in LCVs being stolen without the owner’s keys,” said Andy Barrs, Head of Police Liaison at Tracker.

“The relatively new trend in vehicle theft termed ‘relay attack’, that allows criminals to harness more sophisticated theft techniques to overcome existing vehicle security technology, such as immobilisers and keyless entry systems, has played a significant part in this increase,” added Barrs.

Anyone that leaves tools in their van will face the inconvenience of making an insurance claim and having to replace their equipment. At the same time, the associated loss of business and rise in insurance costs has a significant impact on small businesses.