Police in the United Kingdom are looking into reports of vehicle burglaries (meaning items from the vehicle were stolen, not the vehicles themselves) where there is no sign of break-in damage to the vehicle.
They are looking into the theory that burglars are using high-tech jammers that prevent car owners from locking their vehicles via their remote keyless systems (RKE), an option that is becoming standard on most vehicles these days.
According to the article: “Devices that block the frequency used by a car owner’s key fob might be used to thwart an owner’s attempts to lock a car, leaving it open for waiting thieves. A quick search of the internet shows that devices offering to jam car locks are easily available for around $100. Effectiveness at up to 100m is claimed.”
RKE jammers have been around for years in Europe, but they are only recently being used in the United States. They work because most car owners are so used to using their remote to lock their cars, and then assume that the car has locked, rather than listening to make sure that the lock has fallen into place.
RKEs operate by broadcasting radio waves on a particular frequency. Most RKEs work on 315 MHz in North America and Japan, and 433.92 MHz in Europe. As confirmed in this Snopes.com article, modern systems implement encryption to prevent car thieves from intercepting and spoofing the signal; however, the above-described manner of break-in is not as sophisticated and might still be possible today. In the vehicle break-in attempt described above, the thief was not attempting to record the signal emitted by the RKE but was simply blocking it from working in the first place.
In Europe, more sophisticated thieves may use commercial jamming equipment, but even simple two-way radios that happen to jam RKE signals when the transmit button is pressed can be used. In the U.S., wireless door bell chime buttons have been found to also block RKE signals.
If you ever find that you are unable to lock your vehicle’s doors using your remote, take a quick look around to see if you can locate any suspicious vehicles or individuals that may be responsible. There have been cases where law enforcement agencies have made significant arrests by conducting stake-outs of high theft areas and watching for suspicious activity related to jamming.