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Car theft: How to prevent your electronic keys from being cloned

Published on March 24, 2023


Each year, the Insurance Bureau of Canada publishes its list of the 10 most stolen vehicles. The prime targets, usually vehicles less than 4 years old, come with a smart key or remote starter.

This is an important detail! These days, thieves can easily clone the electronic keys of newer cars in less than a minute. They can even bypass the integrated anti-theft mechanisms. All they need are specialized software and a laptop to clone the signal sent from your smart key.

How thieves clone car keys

Thieves can clone electronic keys by intercepting the radio signal using a scanner. The key emits a signal to lock and unlock your car doors or to start the engine. Electronic key cloning devices save the radio signal in their memories. A copy of your key can then be generated in a matter of seconds.

In some cases, the thieves can break into the car to access the universal OBD (on-board diagnostics) socket. That’s how they obtain the key code and clone it. All thieves have to do is then send the saved radio signal to your car. This signal is read as though it was coming from your own key and will unlock the doors or start the engine.

How to protect yourself from key cloning

Electronic keys for newer vehicles use more advanced security that prevents cloning. Older cars (more than a few years old) are therefore more vulnerable to cloning.

It’s important to take extra preventive measures in these cases. The first thing you should do is to store your key in a secure area when you don’t need it. Don’t leave it where others can see it, whether that’s near the entrance door or windows, or in the car, even if the doors are locked.

You can store your electronic key in a specially designed case that blocks radio signals. That will stop the would-be thieves from accessing your vehicle.

You can also install additional security devices such as alarm systems, OBD, GPS monitoring, etc. These devices serve as deterrents for thieves.

What to do if your vehicle is stolen

If, despite all these precautions, your car is stolen, contact your local police to file a report. You’ll need to present this report to your insurer to submit a claim. However, make sure your insurance contract includes an “All perils” or “Comprehensive excluding collision or upset” coverage to protect your vehicle in the event of theft.

Thieves have adapted their methods to counter new technologies and have turned car theft into a lucrative business. That’s why it’s so important for you to take preventive measures. Contact your insurance advisor to see if your coverage is adequate for your needs.

Your insurance broker is there to help you prevent losses. Contact him or her!