The Los Angeles Police Department’s Commercial Crimes Division is warning Kia and Hyundai owners about a crime trend popularized on social media that has led to an increase in vehicle thefts.
LAPD Sgt. Juvey Mejia said authorities identified the crime trend more than year ago, however the number of thefts spiked this summer after a video with information on how to steal such cars was posted on TikTok. Mejia, who is a member of the Taskforce for Regional Auto Theft Prevention, which also includes the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, said the video was quickly removed yet references still exist. The video allegedly shows how to start the vehicles using a USB cord.
Mejia said the video was posted “a couple months ago” but he did not know specifically when it was removed. He said he has exhaustively searched the internet and has been unable to locate any other postings that still exist showing techniques used to steal cars. Authorities are also working with Hyundai and Kia to prevent thefts in the future.
“It’s pretty bad. If you are the owner of one of these vehicles, you need to take precautions,” Mejia said. “This year, 23% of all vehicles stolen have been Kias and Hyundais, citywide. We crunched the numbers and if you look at the statistics, it’s happening countywide.”
Mejia said the thieves are targeting 2010-21 model vehicles and they are all models that use transponders or smart keys starters. He declined to divulge how the thieves steal the vehicles, but said they are able to start the ignition without engine immobilizers – devices that prevent a vehicle’s engine from starting unless the correct transponder or smart key is present.
A representative of Hyundai Motor America said the manufacturer is taking steps to prevent future thefts and will assist current owners in preventing vehicles from being stolen.
“Hyundai Motor America is concerned about the recent rise in auto thefts of certain Hyundai model vehicles. While all of our vehicles meet or exceed federal motor vehicle safety standards, unfortunately, our vehicles have been targeted in a coordinated effort on social media. Criminals are targeting our vehicles without engine immobilizers. Immobilizers became standard on all vehicles produced after Nov. 1, 2021,” read a statement from Ira Gabriel, senior group manager, corporate and marketing PR for Hyundai Motor America. “In order to assist customers with earlier model year vehicles without an immobilizer, Hyundai has been working with and will continue to support local police departments to make steering wheel locks available for affected Hyundai owners.”
Hyundai is also directing owners to a security kit manufactured by Firstech/Compustar that prevents thieves from accessing the vehicles.
“Beginning on Oct. 1, 2022, the security kit will be available for purchase and installation at Hyundai dealerships and Compustar authorized installers across the country,” Gabriel said in the statement. “Hyundai will provide additional details soon, and customers who have questions can always contact the Hyundai Consumer Assistance Center at (800)633-5151.”
A request seeking information from KIA USA was not returned.
Mejia said the easiest and least expensive way for Kia and Hyundai owners to protect their vehicles is to use a steering wheel lock.
“The old school Club is the best defense,” Mejia added. “You have 14, 15 and 16-year-old kids who want to do this challenge, and if they look through the window and see a steering wheel lock, they will walk away and find another target.”