Beware The Car-Key Jammers

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Police have issued a warning that some recent thefts from vehicles, which have taken place in three Berkshire service stations, have involved the use of radio jammers.

Remote Technology Used

Thames Valley Police have said that thefts of items from vehicles at the Chieveley, Reading and Membury services on the M4 have involved the use of radio jamming devices. These devices can be bought cheaply online, the sales of which are likely to be difficult to trace due the fact that many sellers of these items are believed to be unscrupulous or have links to crime.

Although there appears to be no clear proof, police believe that this is the most likely explanation because, in 14 cases, there have been obvious signs of a break-in.

The fact that lorries, vans and cars have been successfully targeted also suggests that jammers rather than keys or similar methods were used.

At Chieveley Services for example, thieves took tools, a suitcase and a laptop. At Membury, it was luggage, wallets and cash that was taken; while at Reading Services, three high-end vehicles were targeted. All attacks are thought to have involved the use of jammers.

How Could The Jammers Have Been Used?

As the name suggests, radio jammers interrupt and interfere with radio signals.

Modern vehicle key fobs use radio signals to lock/unlock the doors. Radio jammers can be used remotely and they can easily cover an area the size of a service station car park.

Police therefore believe that the thieves were able to take up a remote position in the car park, far enough away from their targets and other drivers to not be observed, but close enough to be able to operate the jammer as drivers were pressing the ‘lock’ button on their key fobs. A radio jamming signal can prevent the car doors from locking and without a manual check by the driver they are therefore left unlocked until the driver returns.

Service Station Car Parks Perfect Target

Service station car parks are thought to be particularly attractive to thieves using this method because they are busy and have a fast turnaround of transient users who are unlikely to know or to notice who is the owner of a specific vehicle. It is also the case that service station users are more likely to have more valuable items in their vehicles – e.g. holiday and work-related items.

Problems With Insurance Claims Likely

There are concerns that because there was no forced entry, victims of these crimes may have difficulty with their insurance claims.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This news is, of course, very significant to business travellers using the M4, using any other UK motorways, or indeed using public car parks.

The advice is for all motorists to:

  • Listen carefully to ensure the locking mechanism has engaged.
  • Check that the door is actually locked before leaving your vehicle, even if you have pressed the lock button on your key fob as normal.
  • Don’t leave valuable items in the vehicle/in view in the vehicle if possible.

Additionally, if you use a laptop or mobile device with sensitive data (e.g. business data), consider encrypting the contents and of course always lock them with a robust password.

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