Whilst you might think that having a car with the latest high-end security features protects you, this is not necessarily the case as car thieves have become increasingly tech-savvy.

Most modern cars include data aggregation systems such as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) and telematics systems. These systems collect, combine, and manage various types of data generated within a vehicle. The very sensors, computers, and systems that were created to protect cars are now being used to steal cars.

Advanced criminal techniques

The Electronic Control Modules (ECMs) allow remote management of the engine, transmission, powertrain, brakes and suspension. However, criminals are now using this to their advantage to steal cars by using various hacking techniques to track a car’s credentials and data via the internet in order to gain unauthorised access and control over the vehicle.
This allows them to bypass security, track the exact location of the vehicle, and create a false key signal, allowing them to easily gain access to the car.

Keyless-entry systems

This development in ways of stealing cars stemmed from the popular method of hacking a vehicle’s keyless-entry system (KES). This technique has become so popular among car thieves that leading vehicle manufacturers have created several enhanced safety upgrades specifically for vehicles in South Africa to reduce the chances of their KES being compromised, such as: Advanced Key Fob Encryption, Signal Blocking, Keyless Entry Deactivation and PIN or Biometric Authentication.

Keyless cars are often stolen through a technique known as relay hacking. This involves criminals intercepting the signal from the original key and transmitting it to a second person who is closer to the car and holding a relay box. The relay box then sends a message to the vehicle that the key is nearby, causing it to unlock and start.

Additional safety measures

Insurers have identified several vehicles as common targets for this type of crime, and to counteract the increased losses on especially high-end vehicles, some insurers have stipulated that motorists should install up to two insurer-approved tracking devices as an additional safety measure.

In these cases, it is essential for policy holders to ensure that their tracking systems are installed by the due date, are fully operational at all times, are tested regularly, and that their monthly fees are up to date in order to avoid their claims being rejected if an unexpected issue should occur. With the necessary tracking devices installed, some insurers waive the payment of an excess in case of theft or hijacking or give the customer a premium discount.

Proactively predict to prevent potential losses

It is important that consumers protect themselves and take the necessary precautions to prevent falling victim to vehicle theft and its associated risks. Seeking the advice of a broker holds significant value. The profound inconvenience, emotional distress, and subsequent expenses incurred in cases of hijacking or theft underscore this importance. Striving to proactively predict and prevent potential losses is of paramount importance.

A primary issue within the industry revolves around addressing the widespread theft of vehicles, particularly high-end vehicles. The increase in theft of high-value vehicles can have a direct impact on the future affordability of car insurance in South Africa. One insurer reported an increase of 75% in the average value of a stolen vehicle claim. The associated claims settlement costs with such an increase is simply not sustainable in relation to premiums collected.

Collaborative efforts required

Tackling the prevalent theft of high-end vehicles necessitates collaborative efforts from all stakeholders. It is crucial that car and home insurance remains accessible and cost-effective for a broad spectrum of South Africans, to protect their hard-earned assets. It is advisable to consult your broker who will be able to provide you with appropriate recommendations for a suitable product to best suit your pocket and your needs.