Police in Surrey are advising drivers of BMW and Mercedes to take precautions after a spate of thefts intercepting their keyless entry system.

Police recommend that owners of such high performance cars should keep the key fob in a special signal blocking bag.

Thieves are using technology to capture and extend the signal from the key fob inside the home, tricking the car into thinking it is close enough to unlock. 

Sixty-two cars in Surrey were stolen in this way from the beginning of 2022 up to May 20, of which 31 were Mercedes and 28 BMWs.

Borough commander Gemma Taylor, speaking to Surrey Heath Borough Council’s external partnerships select committee on Tuesday (June 7), said: “They use a transmitter, it pings the car’s locking system, sends a signal to a second transmitter which is with someone located near to the house i.e. near to where the keys are, and the signal gets relayed back to the car, the car opens and the car starts.

“The best thing you can do is turn off your keyless entry system in your car, but who wants to spend thousands of pounds on a car that you then have to turn off one of the best functions probably.”

She advised investing in a faraday bag, a metal-lined pouch which blocks signal transmission and can be bought online for under £10.

“And make sure it’s working,” she said. “We have had some thefts where keys have been in faraday bags but they’ve not been properly in the bags or the bags are old and have deteriorated.”

Inspector Taylor told councillors keyless thefts are a national problem. Twelve of the 62 thefts this year had taken place in Surrey Heath.

These happened overnight throughout April and May, in the areas of Lightwater, Camberley and Blackwater.

She said: “They’re using the M25, sticking to arterial routes off of the M25 and those main roads.

“They’re not using the same days of the week, they’re not hitting exactly the same areas every time, they’re not using the same vehicles.”

This type of car theft made up two thirds of all vehicle thefts in the borough for the year June 2021 to May 2022, which overall rose by 21 per cent compared with the previous year.

Vehicle theft saw the biggest increase of all crimes in the borough and bucked a general downward trend, with drug offences down 49 per cent (140 crimes), and robberies down 53 per cent (16 crimes).

Total crimes recorded overall across the year was up 30 crimes (0.6 per cent).