The Sneaky Way Thieves Target Your Car Key Fob

Keyless ignition systems have become so convenient, but they're also attracting hackers. Here's how to protect yours.

Modern Car remote control key

How did we ever live without keyless start cars? From eliminating fumbling with a key ring to all the little-known uses for your car key fob, keyless ignition systems are becoming more and more attractive to consumers. And that’s a good thing, because they’ll soon be universal. reports more than half of cars sold in the last year had a keyless ignition system. But as with so many technological advancements comes the inevitable plague … hackers. And that key fob may be their latest target.

When you unlock your car from a distance, the key fob sends an electronic code to your vehicle. According to Jim Milan of Auto Accessories Garage, thieves can actually steal the code as it’s being sent to your car.

“Under normal circumstances, when you are not close to your car, the radial signal the car uses to activate the key is too weak for proper signal communication and the keyless entry feature will not work,” Milan said. “However, when thieves use a special signal amplifier between your car and the key, the car will think the key is next to it and will unlock.”

So how can you protect your key fob from thieves? Store it inside a metal container, says Laura Gonzales of Autonation. The signal from a fob can pass through doors, windows and walls, but metal can stop it. Some suggest storing your fob in the refrigerator or microwave when you get home.

If you feel like you’ll forget your keys in the fridge or — worse — accidentally zap it in the microwave, Mark Cann, founder of Completely Keyless, has a solution. He suggests storing the fob far from where your vehicle is parked so its signals can’t be intercepted. A signal-blocking wallet or pouch would also work.

Or wrap your key fob in tin foil. Wrapped snugly, it could prevent the signal from getting out.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest

Erin Kayata
Erin Kayata joined Reader’s Digest as an assistant staff writer in March 2019, coming from the Stamford Advocate where she covered education. Prior to this, she was part of a two-year Hearst fellowship program where she covered crime and education in suburban Connecticut. She graduated from Emerson College and spent part of her undergraduate career writing for the Boston Globe. When she’s not writing articles about useful facts and pop culture, you can find Erin enjoying the local theater scene and working toward her goal of reading 50 books a year.