With motorists increasingly vulnerable to a wave of next-generation car crime, retailers say more drivers are protecting themselves with the latest security devices – and some more old school ones.
A spate of high-value vehicle thefts and a rise in the number of cash-for-crash insurance scams has seen the sale of four products in particular sky-rocket in the last couple of years.
In some cases the popularity of the devices, key fob blockers, trackers, dash cams and steering locks, have increased by as much as 670 per cent. The question is: do you need them?
Extra measures: Motorists are arming themselves with 4 devices in particular to protect themselves and their vehicles from vehicle crime. Here’s what you need to know about each one
Do you need these devices?
If your car has keyless technology, three of the products are a must have if you want to secure your vehicle against the latest hacking thefts.
The remaining device is fast becoming an essential piece of equipment for frequent drivers to battle against scam artists out on the road.
In short, if you’re vehicle is worth more than £10,000 and doesn’t need a key slotted into the ignition barrel to start the engine, all four are certainly worth considering.
Here’s why and how much they could cost you.
1. Key-fob signal blockers
These signal blocking key pouches are becoming increasingly popular. Leave your car keys in them when you get home and it should create a barrier to prevent hacking your car’s system
Price: from £10 approx
These anti-theft devices surged in popularity following the increased threat of keyless car thefts that are now favoured by organised gangs.
Called relay thefts, criminals use an amplifier and transmitter to trick the car into thinking the owner’s key is nearby, when it’s actually locked inside the house.
By replicating the key fob’s signal, the thieves can gain access to the vehicle without having to even see or hold the genuine key at all.
The process can take as little as 60 seconds to complete and can be done in almost complete silence.
The crime has turned into an epidemic in recent months, with gangs now stealing vehicles to order – focusing on high value models that they them aim to transport overseas at the earliest opportunity and even selling these vehicles on in Africa.
According to industry experts, 96 per cent of all new cars are susceptible to the tactic. As a result, motorists have turned to key-fob pouches that double as signal blockers.
Simply place the key inside and it creates a barrier that will prevent criminals from being able to infiltrate the system.
Halfords, which currently sells one of the gadgets for £10, said sales of this device alone have increased by 464 per cent in the last year, after widespread reports of cars being taken and manufacturers admitting they can’t intercept the criminals’ tactic.
David Howells, Halfords’s car security expert said the signal blockers are a good low-cost solution for car hacking.
‘In-car security systems can only do so much to prevent a car being stolen,’ he explained.
‘It seems that many anti-theft systems can be easily bypassed and using a simple device like an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) wallet can prevent your fob being hacked.’
2. Steering locks
Steering wheel locks might be considered old hat but sales are up by 226% because drivers are taking additional measures to deter gangs using relay theft tactics
Price: from £15 approx
Another means to prevent against keyless car thefts is the steering lock.
New drivers might wonder what these are, while more experienced motorists are likely to have owned one at some point during their years at the wheel.
While they might be considered old hat, Halfords says sales have increased by 226 per cent in a year.
As well as being another barrier against the latest relay theft techniques, they’re also a good old school deterrent for more rudimentary efforts to steal cars.
David Howells from Halfords told This is Money: ‘Classic steel steering locks first became popular in the 1980s and ’90s but remain an extremely effective – and visual – way of deterring thieves, and we’ve recently seen a huge increase in sales as car owners turn to old school solutions.’
Like signal-blocking key wallets, they’re not expensive but highly effective.
3. Tracking systems
Tracker says its systems have helped to recover £1 million worth of stolen vehicles on average a month
Price: from £70 approx
Fitting a tracking device to your car could be the difference between seeing it again and it being lost forever.
Tracker, one of the UK’s biggest provider of these systems, claims to have recovered over £526 million worth of stolen vehicles with the help of police since launching the product.
That works out at an average of £1 million worth of stolen cars being returned to their rightful owner every month.
It says it has installed over a million systems to date, which have the capability to analyse real-time data from over 270 different points with a vehicle.
That means once the car has been pinched by gangs, the device can locate the police to where the vehicle is being driven or held in preparation for transit.
There are simpler versions of the technology that can simply be plugged into the vehicle.
They cost around £70, though Tracker has high-tech versions costing £799 that can identify when it’s not you at the wheel and sends an alert immediately.
Dashcams are becoming increasingly popular as drivers look to protect themselves from insurance fraud
Price: from £20 approx
While the three previously-mentioned devices are designed to prevent theft, a dashcam is a gadget to protect drivers against a totally different scam.
With cash-for-crash claims increasing by 50 per cent in the last decade, according to the Ministry of Justice, the spate of purposely causing an accident is costing the nation’s motorists approximately £1 billion a year in additional insurance costs.
How to find an affordable dashcam
Scam artists have employed various tactics to pocket insurance pay-outs, from slamming on the brakes purposely so that victims smash into the back of them, to pedestrians, cyclists and scooter riders throwing themselves into cars in a bid for easy cash.
As a result, more drivers are equipping themselves with dashcams.
These can fit securely to your windscreen and record both forwards and out of the rear to capture any illegal activity.
More expensive models can even switch themselves on when a crash occurs and you’re not in a vehicle.
Police forces are now willing to take high-quality footage as evidence if poor driving has been captured and some insurers will offer discounts if you have a dashcam in the car at all times.
According to independent retail analysts GfK, sales have leaped by a massive 671 per cent in the last two years as drivers arm themselves with recording equipment in tackle false claim makers.
According to a recent study by automotive retailer, Peter Vardy, more than half (51 per cent) of driver now have one.
Another 22 per cent of those without said they intend to buy one shortly.
SAVE MONEY ON MOTORING