TikTok challenge encourages people to steal Kias, Hyundais using USB cables – NBC2 News

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CAPE CORAL, Fla. (WBBH) – A dangerous TikTok challenge that encourages people to steal Kias and Hyundais using USB cables is leading to a surge in car thefts across the country.
“(The thieves) are really just doing it for likes,” Jason LaBonte of Legendary Automotive and Truck Service in Fort Myers told NBC2. “They want to get on a video, they want to take a selfie, they want to tag these particular people who have made a profession of it.”
As LaBonte explained in an interview with the NBC2 Investigators, it isn’t actually the USB cable that enables the theft. It has to do with the vehicles themselves.
“There’s a year spread from about 2010 to 2020-21 where there were no immobilizers put in those vehicles,” he explained. “And they’re bladed key vehicles. So if they open the steering column up, they can simply just turn the switch and the car starts and they’re off.”
Police across the country have reported a surge in people stealing Kias and Hyundais, including in St. Petersburg, where police said more than a third of all car thefts since mid-July are linked to the Tik Tok challenge.
Police in Cape Coral told NBC2 the trend has not yet hit the city – at least not yet. But they say there’s a possibility that could happen, given the viral nature of these types of challenges.
“These how-to-do tutorials are allowing criminals and thieves to have readily accessible information and step-by-step videos about how to steal stuff,” Officer Brandon Sancho told NBC2.
In separate statements to NBC2, spokespersons for both Kia and Hyundai said vehicles being manufactured now do have protections against this type of crime. They also said they’re working with police to provide steering wheel locks to drivers who are affected.
That means old-school theft deterrents like ‘The Club’ could be making a comeback.
“This is just another level of precaution,” LaBonte explained, showing NBC2 a steering wheel lock. “So if (thieves) see this thing, they’re probably just going to move on to the next car. They’re not going to want to deal with something like this.”
Beyond the Tik Tok challenge, there is another new, more sophisticated type of theft police are worried about. It’s known as key fob ‘cloning.’
“What they’re doing, is they’re using tablets and different resources to kind of produce mock key fobs,” Officer Sancho said, describing the crimes.
“(Thieves) are going to dealerships, they’re using the technology, they’re writing new keys – and they’re disappearing with these vehicles,” LaBonte explained.
And this type of theft is happening in Cape Coral. Surveillance video obtained by NBC2 last year showed thieves using a computer to steal five vehicles right off a dealer’s lot.
“As much as we continue to make the security harder and harder to crack in these vehicles, (thieves) are going to continue using the technology to get their job done,” LaBonte said.
“Technology itself, it’s a great thing,” Sancho said. “However, with all good, there’s bad as well.”
Hyundai Motor America is concerned about the recent rise in auto thefts of certain Hyundai model vehicles. While all of our vehicles meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, unfortunately, our vehicles have been targeted in a coordinated effort on social media. Criminals are targeting our vehicles without engine immobilizers. Immobilizers became standard on all vehicles produced after November 1, 2021.
In order to assist customers with earlier model year vehicles without an immobilizer, Hyundai has been working with and will continue to support local police departments to make steering wheel locks available for affected Hyundai owners. Additionally, Hyundai has identified a Firstech / Compustar security kit that targets the method of entry thieves are using to access these vehicles.
Beginning October 1, 2022, this security kit will be available for purchase and installation at Hyundai dealerships and Compustar authorized installers across the country. Hyundai will provide additional details soon, and customers who have questions can always contact the Hyundai Consumer Assistance Center at 800-633-5151.
Kia America is aware of the rise in vehicle thefts of a subset of trim levels through a coordinated effort on social media. While no vehicle can be made theft-proof, criminals are seeking vehicles solely equipped with a steel key and “turn-to-start” ignition system. The majority of Kia vehicles in the United States are equipped with a key fob and “push-button-to-start” system, making them more difficult to steal. All 2022 Kia models and trims have an immobilizer applied either at the beginning of the model year or as a running change. All Kia vehicles for sale in the U.S. continue to meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
Kia America has provided steering wheel lock devices at no cost to law enforcement in affected areas to deter vandalism and theft. That effort will continue in close coordination with local police departments for distribution to concerned owners of Kia vehicles not originally equipped with an immobilizer.
Kia customers with questions regarding their specific vehicle should contact the Consumer Assistance center directly at 1-800-333-4542 (Kia).
Copyright © 2022 Waterman Broadcasting of Florida, LLC
Copyright © 2022 Waterman Broadcasting of Florida, LLC
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