According to a Marlet investigation, which also revealed that the thieves were targeting vehicles equipped with push-button ignitions.
Stolen vehicles are shipped overseas by thieves so audacious they leave behind take-out containers, identifiable bumper stickers and even license plates.
- Watch the full investigation Friday at 8 p.m. on CBC-TV or stream it anytime on CBC Gem or YouTube.
Experts say automakers prioritizing convenience over security with these push-button ignitions make it quick and easy for thieves to steal vehicles to ship overseas, where demand for Canadian cars is high because of their reliability and availability of parts, and consequences for thieves are low.
“It’s low risk, high reward,” Det. Greg O’Connor of the Peel Police Auto Crime Unit, who said Marlet this type of car theft has low overhead and takes little time. Cars can be loaded onto shipping containers and be on their way within hours, he said.
Police in Peel Region, west of Toronto, say 80-85% of stolen vehicles are linked to organized crime and destined for shipment overseas, many of them to West Africa.
Other stolen vehicles may be given a new, falsified Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and resold in Canada, or used to transfer drugs, firearms or human trafficking.
“It’s not a victimless crime,” O’Connor said.
Marlet was able to recover stolen Canadian vehicles in Ghana and Nigeria. On the Jiji website, an online marketplace similar to Kijiji, foreign-owned vehicles are heavily advertised and cars can sell for nearly double the price they would in Canada. A 2018 Lexus RX 350 was listed for sale for 28,000,000 naira, or around C$85,000. This same vehicle with similar mileage has a market price of around $48,000 on Autotrader.ca.
Some sellers don’t even remove Ontario license plates or Canadian dealer stickers. An image from Ghana in 2017 shows cars with Ontario license plates advertised along the main road. In February, researchers were able to find a 2018 Lexus RX 350 in a second-hand parking lot in Lagos, Nigeria. The vehicle had undergone a security inspection in the Niagara region of southern Ontario in August 2021. CBC cannot confirm when it was stolen.
How it’s made
You’ve probably heard of the “relay attack”, in which a device is used to capture the signal from a car key fob that’s inside a house, then amplified to open doors. of the car. But experts say there’s a cheaper and easier solution that thieves are turning to: lock picks. These tools are available for less than $60 in online marketplaces.
Once inside the car, thieves typically plug a key programmer — available for less than $1,000 online — into the car’s on-board diagnostic (OBD) port, usually located under the steering wheel, where mechanics can connect a diagnostic tool to the car’s computer. Using this port, thieves can program a blank key fob to match the vehicle. This can be done on almost any vehicle with push ignition. Vehicles with physical keys require a separate tool to clone the key.
WATCH | Locksmith shows how thieves steal vehicles:
It’s a problem locksmith and Hamilton-based Auto Key Pro founder Yaser Jafar says needs more regulation.
“Anyone can buy these tools and do whatever they want,” he said. Marlet. “When it’s in the wrong hands, and if they have a bit of experience, or if they learn it, very quickly they can easily steal any car they want.”
More safeguards, such as a locksmith regulatory body or a registration process for purchasing tools, can prevent locksmith tools from falling into the wrong hands and would help curb theft, Jafar said. .
Once the vehicle is stolen and left in a ‘chilled’ location to ensure it is not tracked, the cars are usually driven to Montreal or Halifax, placed in shipping containers and shipped overseas. It can happen in as little as 24 hours, police say.
The Honda CR-V, Toyota Highlander, Lexus RX and Ford F-150 are some of the most popular stolen car models in Canada. O’Connor says it can take as little as 2 to 13 minutes to steal these vehicles.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada’s list of most stolen cars includes the CR-V and the F-150, but Marlet was able to look at car theft data in Ontario and adjust the theft rates based on the number of cars insured. The vehicles on this list mainly include luxury vehicles including Lexus and Range Rover models.
Surprisingly, the data obtained by Marlet shows that electric vehicles are rarely stolen and only one Tesla has been reported stolen in Ontario. Experts attribute this to minimal infrastructure – and demand – for electric vehicles overseas, and improved security features such as passcodes and 360 cameras.
In January, Peel Police announced a multi-jurisdictional investigation – Project High Five – which resulted in 321 criminal charges and recovered more than 200 stolen vehicles. Some cars even still had takeout containers and masks when they were seized.
But Project High Five was not the solution to car theft. Just days after the arrests, Bart Evans had his 2018 Ford F-150 stolen from Sherway Gardens, a shopping mall in suburban Toronto, mid-afternoon. It has not been recovered.
Now Evans is buying a replacement F-150. “My wife asked me, ‘Are they still doing The Club?’ I said, ‘Yes, they do!’ I’m going to stick this on (my new truck).”
“Manufacturers could definitely step up”
Marlet heard of many car theft victims who seemed to be doing everything right – storing keys in signal blocking pouches or containers to prevent relay attacks, having security cameras on their driveways, even using a security club to lock their steering wheel and prevent the car from turning. But police warn that thieves are quick to catch up with these methods and circumvent them.
“It shouldn’t be this easy,” O’Connor said. “Manufacturers could certainly step in, but with these stolen vehicles they also sell more vehicles, and when the vehicles need to be repaired, they sell more parts.”
Marlet asked the manufacturers of some of the most stolen cars what was done to prevent theft. All declined on-camera interviews, but in written statements, all agreed that car theft is an issue that affects all brands.
Toyota, owner of Lexus, wrote that its vehicles comply with all Canadian regulations and that it “continually develops and deploys new or improved technical features in new models to further enhance their safety.”
Honda wrote that its new vehicles include keys with an electronic code that makes them “extremely difficult to duplicate”, and owners can connect with some vehicles via their smartphones.
Land Rover said it was the first manufacturer to introduce “UItra Wide Band technology” to thwart relay attacks, and said UK industry security experts had given Land Rover vehicles a security rating “superior”.
Ford said there were “no unique risks” identified for its F-150 vehicles, and suggested parking in secure, lighted areas and ensuring vehicles are locked when unattended. monitoring.
Meanwhile, some manufacturers are looking to implement stronger security measures such as biometrics or two-factor authentication to help combat car theft. Car security companies already have tools that can be added aftermarket at consumer expense, such as a lock for a car’s OBD port, additional immobilizers, or a custom code that drivers must enter before starting the engine.
Experts such as Jafar and O’Connor suggest that layering security measures is the best way to protect vehicles against theft. They say parking vehicles in garages, blocking vehicles with less desirable cars and looking for alternatives are all ways to thwart thieves until automakers tighten their vehicle security.
“We can’t keep up,” O’Connor said. “Resources are everywhere. It comes [down] layers of protection for the vehicle to make sure your vehicle doesn’t become targeted.”