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Brittany Hambleton
Brittany Hambleton
January 10, 2024 ·  4 min read

Thieves Are Using a New Tactic for Vehicle Break-Ins

Cars have been long-time targets for thieves. They are often left unattended in parking lots or on the side of a road, and they’re typically easier to break into than a house. People also have a bad habit of leaving valuable items in their cars, making vehicles an often lucrative target for someone trying to make a quick buck.

Technology has now made it easier than ever before for thieves to target your car. There is an alarming new trend in car break-ins where thieves are using cell phone apps to find out what’s behind your car doors.

Bluetooth Scanners

A Bluetooth scanner is an app that allows you to find all the devices around you that have a bluetooth connection. It can be a very useful tool to help you find your phone or laptop if you’ve misplaced it, and developers use them to design Bluetooth accessories [1].

Of course, they were not designed to help thieves, but since they require no technical know-how, and can be used by anyone with a smartphone, they are a very powerful tool for criminals.

What is Bluetooth?

Bluetooth is a wireless communication standard that allows devices to connect and interact with each other. It does not require Wi-Fi, mobile data, or a cell network to operate- it simply needs devices that are Bluetooth compatible to be in close proximity to each other [2].

Bluetooth is low-cost and easy to implement, so unless you have a very old or very cheap phone, there’s a good chance that you have it on your smartphone.

Using Bluetooth to Break Into Cars

The classic smash-and-grab technique we’re used to seeing in the movies is becoming a thing of the past [3]. There are now dozens of Bluetooth-scanning apps that allow thieves to figure out exactly where your devices are hidden in your car and target those areas specifically, making them much more effective and efficient .

Not only do they show you where the devices are, but these apps can tell you what kind of device it is and what it looks like, making it that much easier to find [4]. Because of this, many cities and states across the country are seeing an alarming increase in the number of car break-ins.“There are some people, auto burglars, who actually detect that [Bluetooth] signal and target your car for that,” a San Jose Police Department representative told CBS.

Five Ways to Protect Yourself From Car Theft

There are a number of ways you can protect yourself from car theft:

  1. Lock your car. This sounds like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many times people accidentally leave their car unlocked while unattended. Car thieves are looking for the path of least resistance, so leaving your vehicle wide open will make it that much easier for them [5].
  2. Close the windows. Similarly to the first item on this list, leaving your windows open – even just a crack – while you run into the grocery store makes you an easy target for car thieves.
  3. Park in well-lit areas. The last thing car thieves want to do is draw attention to themselves, so do your best to park in well-lit areas where there are lots of other people around.
  4. Put your devices on airplane mode. Or turn them off. Bluetooth scanners can’t find your phone, laptop, or Ipad if they’re not on. Better yet- don’t leave them in your car in the first place.
  5. Get a protective sleeve. If you must leave your device in your car, you can also purchase a special protective sleeve that prevents scanners from finding it.

What to Do if Your Car Gets Broken Into

Here are a few simple steps to take if you do find yourself to be a victim of car theft:

  1. Take note of the damage. Take pictures of any areas of your car that were damaged. Do not enter into your car, as you could risk tainting the evidence. Keep a written list of all the damages you see, as well as any items that may have been stolen. Be as specific as possible to increase your chances of being reimbursed by your insurance company [6].
  2. Call the police. As soon as you have made a detailed record of the damages, you need to notify the police to file a report. A police officer may be sent to you to assess the damage, or you may be required to go to the police station yourself. If this is the case, do not use the vehicle in question to get there, as this could interfere with the evidence [6].
  3. Avoid identity theft. Identity theft is a major concern with vehicle break-ins. If you notice your wallet, or credit cards have been stolen, be sure to notify your bank right away. You should also contact a credit bureau, such as Equifax or TansUnion, and have them place a fraud alert on your account [6].
  4. Make an insurance claim. If the amount of damage or the dollar value significantly exceeds your insurance deductible, call your insurance provider and give them the police report number along with information about the break-in [6].

Do What You Can

You will not always be able to avoid being a target of car theft, but if you take the right steps you can lessen your chances, and at the very least minimize the damages. Thieves cannot steal something that is not there, so remember: keep your car locked, and never leave valuables unattended.