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PSNI links OCG criminality to multiple keyless car thefts

One of Northern Ireland’s organised crime gang has been linked to a series of luxury car thefts.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland has warned motorists to increase their security after a spate of thefts.

The forced warned an organised crime gang is likely to be behind incidents where cars have been stolen by redirecting wireless signals from key fobs using a scanner.

Detectives said 35 cars have been stolen using this technology in the last 11 months.

There is no evidence that the thefts are linked to paramilitary organisations.

Manufacturers have moved to keyless entry over the past decade but a flaw in the security means the signal that sets the alarm code can be mimicked by a scanner which connects with the sender in the key fob.

Ranger Rovers, Fiat 500 and Ford Fiestas have been the main targets across the UK.

A shortage of vehicle parts and the security flaws have created an ideal opportunity for offenders - which manufacturers have been slow to address.

A spokesperson said: “Detectives have found that it is mainly high-spec keyless entry cars that are being targeted, from a range of makes and models.”

Among the incidents was the theft of a high-value BMW in February from a street in County Down.

A PSNI spokesperson said: “With advances in technology, thieves are now able to gain access to your vehicle by redirecting the wireless signal from your key fob.

“They only need to be within a few metres of your car key to get the signal, even if it’s inside your home.”

Other methods of entry include connecting into the engine management system to disable engine immobilisers.

The force will be issuing crime prevention advice across their social media channels and officers in local districts will be visiting car dealerships, car washes and supermarkets to ensure advice and support is accessible.

Advice issued by police includes:

– When at home keep your car key (and the spare) away from the car, doors and windows.

– Put your keys in a signal-blocking pouch, such as a Faraday bag.

– Turn off wireless signals on your fob when it is not being used.

– Use a steering wheel lock or car alarm.

– Park in your garage overnight. If you do not have a garage park close to your home.

“We are urging the public to be vigilant, especially those with keyless entry cars.

“The cars these thieves target are usually extremely expensive, so the loss is great. We are actively looking for these criminals and cracking down on these crimes," they said.

“As part of this, we are arming the public with the knowledge of how they can outsmart them by taking some precautions to protect their property.”

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