[NBC Nightly News – December 2022] In California, a suspect was caught on security camera using a mystery device to break into an SUV, stealing an expensive bike. In Seattle, another suspect is seen on security footage holding his backpack close to the car door and ‘boom’ – he’s in. And this is happening across the country. But now officials at the National Insurance Crime Bureau say they may have solved the mystery. A device used by locksmiths fits into a small bag could be what thieves are using. This is how it works.

Usually this is a two-person job, because the device usually comes in two different components, one larger tracker, one smaller transmitter.

Would-be thieves loiter nearby in mall parking lots and structures, seemingly holding conversations. Unsuspecting motorists park their cars and lock them using the key remotes. As the driver walks away, the suspect trails behind with the tracker device concealed in a bag cloning the signal of their car’s key fob.

In just seconds, the larger device registers a signal from the fob and the suspect backs off. The larger device automatically sends the signal to the smaller device which basically become the “key” to the vehicle. When the smaller device is held to the locked door, it opens the door. That’s not all. Once inside the car the device also allows the vehicle to be started and the thief can simply drive away.

And it’s not just one make or model that is affected. Insurance and Technology experts using the device tested it on 17 different makes and models. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers told NBC News: “Automakers have been working on multiple fronts to address security and enhance it”. They are calling it a “Top Priority”.

So, what can you do to derisk yourself and reduce the opportunity for theft? 1) Park in a crowded area to lessen the chance that you will be targeted; 2) If you see somebody suspicious, rethink your parking spot selection; and 3) maybe alert police or mall security.

While automotive technology is convenient, it is constantly evolving. Drivers should stay vigilant and remain aware of their surroundings.