Police warn of vehicle thefts using 'relay and reprogramming technology'

Waterloo regional police are investigating after four vehicles were stolen earlier this month using "relay and reprogramming technology."

According to officials, the vehicles were stolen from four separate addresses in Waterloo between July 8 and July 9.

Here are the vehicles reported stolen:

  • Lexus Rx350: stolen from the RIM park area
  • Toyota Highlander: stolen from the area of Bridge Street West and University Avenue East
  • Toyota Highlander Hybrid: stolen from the RIM park area
  • Toyota 4Runner: stolen from the area of Bridge Street West and Lexington Road

Police said the vehicles were all newer models with keyless entry and push start technology, adding the thefts took place overnight.

RELAY VEHICLE THEFT

According to police, suspects will use technology to find a key fob signal inside a home. They'll use that technology to amplify and transfer the key fob signal to unlock, start and steal the vehicle.

Police said most people don't know the vehicle was stolen until the next morning, when victims realize they have the key fob but their vehicle is gone.

REPROGRAMMING VEHICLE THEFT

Suspects can also force entry inside a vehicle and use an electronic device to access diagnostics.

Police said suspects can reprogram a blank key fob to start the vehicle they plan to steal.

Cindy Riddell would normally leave her car keys inside near the front door, but after hearing how technology was used to steal cars in her Waterloo neighbourhood she wants to stop her car from being a target.

"Now we're going to start to think about relocating our keys," Riddell said. "What people can do with technology and how they can steal things, it's scary. It's a wake up call to be more cautious."

"It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie," said area resident Patric Bintea, who has a push-start Lexus. "I'm going to be more careful and make sure my keys are tucked away and be more mindful and don't leave it unlocked at least so they don't have easier access."

The manager of Forbes Waterloo Toyota says this kind of theft can happen to any make or model.

"Any sought after vehicle right now with push button start is a potential risk," said Jason Stainton. "Ensure that your keys are in a safe location and that the vehicle is stored securely as much as possible."

PROTECTING YOUR VEHICLE

Here are some tips from police for preventing relay and reprogramming theft:

  • Park vehicle inside locked, secure garage
  • Block access to onboard diagnostic port (police said these devices can be purchased online)
  • Use a steering wheel locking device
  • Place the key fob in a frequency shielding bag or pouch to block signals when not in use
  • Equip your vehicle with GPS tracking, which may help locate it or the suspects
  • Ensure keys are accounted for and never left in the vehicle
  • Lock your vehicle
  • Never leave a vehicle running and unattended
  • Purchase a surveillance system to record any suspicious activity