Social media-inspired thieves are stealing some models from Kias and Hyundai with little more than a phone-charging cable.
The trend began in Milwaukee before spreading to cities across the country. It has filed several lawsuits against car makers. The plaintiffs allege that Kia and Hyundai defrauded consumers by selling unsafe vehicles that did not have a common form of anti-theft technology, making them sit for thieves.
According to statements emailed to NerdWallet, the carmaker has taken certain steps to prevent additional thefts, including providing free steering wheel locks through local police departments.
Prevention is important. Having your car stolen is disruptive and costly, assuming you’ll have to replace your vehicle or fix it, if it’s fixed. But if you own one of the affected Kia or Hyundai models, you may face additional consequences, including more expensive insurance and lower resale value on a vehicle that is known to be easily stolen. .
Here’s what you need to know about the wave of Kia and Hyundai thefts — and how to protect yourself.
Tiktok challenge did Kia and Hyundai theft
Videos posted on TikTok, YouTube and other social media sites over the past several months demonstrate how to steal some Kia and Hyundai models sold between 2011 and 2021. These models use a key instead of a push-start ignition system.
These vehicles do not have engine immobilizers, which use electronic signals to prevent the car from starting without the correct key. Most cars made in the last 20 years are equipped with engine immobilizers as they have been very effective in reducing car thefts.
Brazen videos featuring the “Kia Boys” in Milwaukee demonstrate how to steal these Kias and Hyundais that don’t have engine immobilizers. They do this in something as ubiquitous as a screwdriver, or even a USB cord.
According to a statement from Hyundai Motor America sent to NerdWallet, in response to the increase in thefts, Hyundai now includes immobilizers in all vehicles starting on November 1, 2021. In a separate statement, Kia America said that all 2022 models have an immobilizer.
The targeted piracy began before the video went viral. But the tutorial is being blamed for the surge in Kia and Hyundai thefts in cities across the country. Take St. Paul, Minnesota, where one of several class action lawsuits was filed this month. According to data from the St. Paul Police Department, between January and August 2021, 31 Kias and 48 Hyundais were stolen. During the same period this year, that number jumped to 334 Kia and 288 Hyundai thefts.
Kia and Hyundai thefts compound a national car-theft problem that lasted two years. The National Insurance Crime Bureau, which analyzes crime data, reported that vehicle crime has increased since 2020, with carjacking and catalytic converter theft nearing record highs. The NICB said in an email that around one million vehicles were stolen in 2021. Of these, about 782,300 were passenger vehicles.
Theft can have wide-ranging consequences for car owners
But the way some Kias and Hyundais are being targeted, insurance is a tough issue for those particular car owners – even if their car hasn’t been stolen. When risk increases, so do insurance rates.
“It also depends on the insurer and how their claims experience has been, but if a company has noticed a lot of damages by customers who have vehicles that are likely to be stolen for parts etc., it can result in higher premiums. Maybe,” voters said. “We already see that some car models that get stolen quite often.”
Christine Hines, legislative director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, says resale value could also take a hit now because there is widespread knowledge that these vehicles are more prone to theft. “It’s not going to be worth it if they want to sell it, and it’s not fair.”
Hines says the circumstances of the nationwide trend underscore the responsibility of carmakers to act.
“That’s something they could see that most other manufacturers had with anti-theft devices,” Hines says. “You don’t want people to be at risk. It’s up to the manufacturers. They must act fast to ensure the safety of their customers.”
how to prevent car theft
With all types of car thefts on the rise during the pandemic, all car owners should take precautions to avoid becoming a victim. The NICB recommends ensuring that insurance policies are in place, taking valuables with you or keeping them out of sight when you leave your car, locking your car when it is empty and well Parking in well-lit areas.
If you own a 2011-2021 Kia or Hyundai, find out from your car manufacturer about your specific vehicle to see if you are at greater risk for car theft and what the manufacturer will do to help.
Kia owners can call customer support at 1-800-333-4542.
Hyundai owners should call 800-633-5151.
Kia and Hyundai are offering free steering wheel locks which are a visual deterrent that can deter someone from breaking into your vehicle in an attempt to steal it.
Apart from providing steering wheel lock, as well as engine immobilizer in the new models, Hyundai has said that car owners can buy a compster protection kit that will help prevent theft. The kit will be available from October 1 and will need to be installed by a Hyundai dealership or compster.
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