Thieves have discovered a new high-tech way to break into certain types of cars.

The vehicles that are vulnerable constantly emit a low-power signal that automatically allows entry when the car’s remote key fob is within a few feet of the lock, even if the fob is in a person’s pocket or purse. The person who has the fob does not need to touch the fob—he/she just pulls the door handle open to gain entry.

The thieves don’t steal the key fob—instead they use a portable radio-signal booster to trick the car into thinking that the fob, which might be, say, somewhere inside the owner’s house and as far as 100 feet away, is close enough to the car to release the lock. If the fob also allows the car to be started with the push of a button on the dash, as some do, the thief even can drive the car away without having a key.

What to do: If your vehicle has this type of entry system, park in a locked garage when possible. If you park outside, do not leave valuables in view—even when the car is parked in your own driveway.

If you want to be especially cautious, store your key fobs inside a metal container when they are not in use to block any incoming radio waves. Encasing the fobs in aluminum foil or storing them in a small decorative tin also works. Don’t leave them in a wooden drawer.

Do not store your key fobs inside a freezer, refrigerator or microwave oven, as some people have recommended. While these appliances can block radio waves, key fobs can be ruined by condensation when repeatedly cooled and warmed…and they definitely will be ruined if someone accidentally turns on the microwave with the fobs inside.

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