Temple woman says car thief attempted to hack into her key fob

Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 6:21 PM CST
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TEMPLE, Texas (KWTX) - The holiday season is well underway and AAA is warning Americans about an increased risk for car thefts.

An alarming nationwide trend is known as relay theft and involves thieves who can unlock a car using a device that taps into the car fob key signal.

“As thieves get smarter they can find new ways to get into vehicles and steal property,” AAA spokesperson Daniel Armbruster said.

Relay theft works like this: thieves use a device that takes the signal of the fob key, replicate that signal and then unlock the car door.

“In many cases they can actually start the vehicle and take off with it,” Armbruster said.

Maddie Unser believes someone tried this on her in Temple. “I do think it is a really thing that is happening,” she said.

Earlier this week Unser arrived at the 31st Street Walmart parking lot, walked towards the store, tried to lock her car – only to find her key wouldn’t lock the car.

The same thing happened to her boyfriend’s mom who parked in a separate car next to her that evening. “I had to take the key out of the fob just to be able to turn it and open it,” Unser said.

The Temple Police Department has not received any reports of a device disrupting key fobs to steal vehicles. But Unser said she only called the non-emergency line, not 911.

“The current extent of vehicle theft by hacking the key fob is difficult to determine and sometimes the victims aren’t even aware that that’s how their vehicle was entered,” Armbruster said.

A scary situation for Unser, but thankfully no stolen items or car. After her experience, she’s now planning on taking extra precautions in the future.

“I will not go anywhere by myself to the store anymore,” Unser said. “I’ll always make sure I have a buddy with me.”

AAA offered the following tips to stay safe this holiday season:

  • Buy an RFID protection device from online retailers or automotive stores to block the radio signal from thieves.
  • Another option for protection is a faraday cage which acts similar to the RFID device.
  • When at home keep the key fob away from your front door as thieves can detect the signal from right outside.