Protect Your Car From Override Theft

By Kevin Masterman, Toronto Police Service Published: 10:03 a.m. December 17, 2018

With an upsurge in auto theft in the city, police are warning residents to take preventative measures to safeguard their vehicles.

Keychain with car key fob
Vehicle thieves are targeting vehicles that have keyless ignitions by cloning or relaying fobs

At a news conference at police headquarters on December 14, D/Sgt. Daniel Sabadics said stolen vehicles are becoming all too common in the city.

There has been a 29 per cent increase in Toronto since last year.

“What that boils down to is there are 1,000 more stolen autos from 3,200 to 4,200 in the last year,” he said. “In breaking them down, we see that Toyota and Honda are very popular to be stolen.”

Sabadics said there was an increase in luxury vehicles in 13, 53, 32 and 33 Divisions, which is the area south of Bloor St., north of Steeles Ave., the Don River and over to Bathurst St.

He said it has been determined that these thefts are largely attributable to electronic overrides that include cloning/relay and on-board diagnostics (OBD) systems overwriting. The systems are designed to alert drivers when something in the engine or emission control system starts to deteriorate or fail.

“They break into the car, they access that electronic port which is usually for service and a new fob is programmed,” Sabadics said. “We are finding that prevalent with the luxury automobiles.”

Cost-effective mechanical over-rides range from $80 to $700.

He said the top four luxury vehicles stolen are made by Toyota, Lexus, Mercedes and Land Rover.

In 53 and 13 Division these electronic override thefts increased 240%, in 32 Division and 33 Division there was a 45% increase and there was a 90% jump in Toronto overall.

Sabadics said criminals will follow the path of least resistance. He also provided some tips to safeguard vehicles.

“In addition to not leaving your keys in the vehicle and parking in a well-lit space, use a steering wheel club that takes effort to be by-passed, wheel chock, OBD port lock that will prevent thieves from re-programming a key, fuel cell kill switch that shuts off the ignition and bypasses the key, radio frequency interrupter and an aftermarket alarm system."

On December 11, the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) released its annual list of Canada’s most frequently stolen vehicles. 

They noted a 15 per cent increase in stolen vehicles.

Steve Kee, IBC’s director of external communications, is pleased that Toronto Police is raising awareness about the increase in high-end car thefts and preventative measures.

“I see people on a daily basis stopping at coffee shops and gas stations and they leave their vehicles running,” he said. “So for the most part, while there are sophisticated tools and we acknowledge that that is a growing trend, often these are thefts by opportunity, which means we are making things easy. What police are suggesting can certainly help us in the fight against auto theft.”

Recommendations to prevent your vehicle from being stolen:

  • Steering Wheel Club 
  • Wheel Boot/Chock 

  • OBD (On Board Diagnostic) Port Lock 

  • Aftermarket Ignition Kill Switch 

  • Intelligent radio-frequency identification (RFID) car immobilizer 

  • Aftermarket Alarm System 
  • Place keys in Faraday bag 
  • Park In Your Garage
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