The AA's president has revealed he keeps his keyless car fob inside a metal box in his microwave oven, after hackers stole his wife’s Lexus.
Edmund King has gone to unprecedented lengths to prevent thieves intercepting the key’s signal and stealing his car by placing it in a Faraday pouch – a leather bag with wire mesh lining – inside a red metal box. It is then placed inside the microwave at the back of the house, away from the road.
Even though the metal casings should block the fob’s signal from being intercepted by car thieves, Mr King has gone one step further and invested in a £110 full steering wheel lock to secure the vehicle when it is parked on his driveway at his Hertfordshire home, or left unattended.
He is even considering a retractable security post at the entrance to his driveway or installing gates to prevent anyone who beats the security measures from driving away with the car.
The moves may seem excessive, but it comes amid a 22 per cent increase in car thefts in the past year to nearly 110,000 and his family’s shock after a crime gang made off with his wife Deirdre’s £50,000 Lexus.
There has been increasing evidence of crime gangs stealing luxury cars to order by using tech kits bought off the internet to “relay” signals from unprotected keys inside people’s houses to unlock the vehicle.
One of the thieves with an amplifier stands by the property to pick up the fob’s signal. It is then relayed to a second gang member with a transmitter by the car, making the vehicle’s sensors think the key is nearby and the doors can safely be opened.
Mr King, one of Britain’s leading motoring experts, said he feared the gang that stole his wife’s car was even more sophisticated, as her keys had been secured in a Faraday pouch “as far away from the front door as possible, because we knew about scanning and grabbing”.
He suspected it was an organised crime gang who may have scouted their house in advance, watched their movements and then intercepted the keyless fob signal when his wife parked up at 6pm.
“We think they came back at 11.45pm and used their computer device to unlock the car and remove it with no smashing into the car or anything,” said Mr King. “We didn’t notice it until the next morning, by which time it was probably in a container with its plates changed on its way out of the country.”
It comes as the AA urged motorists to safeguard their keys with measures such as Faraday pouches after a poll of 4,000 owners of cars with keyless entry found that more than half - 51 per cent - admitted they did not protect their fobs in any way, leaving them exposed to relay theft.
Mr King urged manufacturers and retailers to alert motorists to the risks at point of sale and explain that, if they wish, the technology can be disabled to allow traditional methods of entry.
“Are we that lazy that we cannot press a button on a key fob or turn a key if it protects us?” he said, adding it was “ironic that we are going back to the 1970s” with his full steering wheel lock. However, he said: “Sometimes basic restraints do work.”