Fleets have been warned to enhance car security in light of data from Tracker, showing rising vehicle thefts corresponding with increasing numbers of vehicles being stolen without the use of keys.

Out of all stolen vehicles recovered by Tracker in 2017, 80% had been stolen without use of the owner's key. This corresponds with a 15% increase in theft recorded since 2017/17 across England and Wales (a 40% increase from five years ago).

Tracker suggests that keyless entry systems are partly to blame for the increase in car thefts. This is because keyless systems are particularly vulnerable to 'relay attacks'.

A 'relay attack' involves two criminals using an electronic signal relay – using two radio transmitters, for example – to intercept and capture the victim's key fob signal, usually from within the motorist's home.

Head of police liaison at Tracker, Clive Wain, said: “We are seeing more and more keyless car theft taking place across the country.

“It’s fair to say that criminals continue to stay one step ahead of manufacturers and ‘relay attack’ is one method car thieves have increasingly adopted.

“Cars are being stolen and driven off within seconds,” Wain added. “It’s clear that people are unintentionally leaving themselves vulnerable to these kinds of attack, by putting their keys in easy reach of relay devices.”

Wain advised fleet decision-makers to take basic precautions and introduce added security measures such as:

• Tracker systems

• Steering wheel locks

• Locking wheel clamps

• Pedal box locks

• Locking driveway posts

• On-board diagnostic (OBD) port locks

• Storing vehicles in the garage

“Whilst the relay devices can receive signals through walls, doors and windows, metal is its enemy, so putting keys in a metal tin or the microwave is a cost-effective way to thwart the criminals,” Wain continued.

“Alternatively, invest in a metallised signal blocking pouch, such as a Faraday wallet, which is designed to shield electronic keys from relay attacks.

“It’s also worth remembering that vehicle security should be multi-layered and shouldn’t just rely on the keyless security system.

“Physical barriers, such as crook locks and wheel clamps will deter thieves. And whilst investing in a tracking device won’t stop a car being stolen, it can significantly increase the chances of police locating it and returning it to the rightful owner. This, plus added vigilance, dramatically contributes to keeping thieves at bay.”