THE shocking scale of car thefts using key fob lock jamming devices is revealed today — as The Sun exposes a car wash gang spearheading the crime spree.
Police say one in four stolen cars are now nicked using the gadgets, which send a signal that stops owners locking their doors by remote.
But researchers say that is an underestimate and it may be as high as 45 per cent.
The boss of a Romanian car wash gang has boasted he pockets up to £20,000 a day using key fob jammers to break into vehicles.
He told an undercover Sun reporter his team, who use the devices to jam the signal when drivers lock cars remotely, steal phones, laptops and have even swiped large bundles of cash.
The gang boss, named Mario, told our man he could supply him with as many key fob jammers as he wanted at £500 a time. He added: You can use this when you want to steal the car.
“Boss, with this you know how many telephone — iPhone 7, Samsung Galaxy 8 — I get from the car? Go to the city centre, loads.
“I swear to my bone 20 grand, two people — ten for me and ten for my friend.”
Mario bragged he once used key fob blockers — which police say have sparked a rise in thefts both of vehicles and from them — to steal £20,000 in cash that had been left in a car.
He also claimed his gang, which works at car washes in Coventry, targets music festivals such as Glastonbury where thousands leave their cars parked for days at a time.
He added: “When you go festival, big festival — car park, I swear to God.”
Mario, who runs the gang with a fellow Romanian named Fernando, also boasted he could get devices which will start a Range Rover engine.
He said he had contacts who wanted to target Range Rovers because they were so expensive.
Mario asked our reporter: “How many you want? I bring you.”
He said our man could use the jammer to get in the Range Rover, then a starting device to drive it away. The key jammers will work within 100metres of a car.
Crooks hold down a button as an owner operates his remote locker and the radio wave signal is blocked.
There were an estimated 872,000 vehicle-related thefts across England and Wales in 2015 and more than 237,000 thefts from a vehicle.
A KEY fob crook ransacked Lauren Dover’s Skoda at Christmas.
He snatched about £200 worth of presents along with clothes and her purse and bank card. Her card was used three times, spending £100. Carer Lauren, 22, of Leeds, said: “It was cruel. It was just before Christmas and lots of presents were stolen.
“Another car had the same thing happened nearby on the same night. A a lap top was taken.”
Police caught the card crook but he insisted he found it in a street.
Lauren said: “He was about 19 and had just got out with prison for theft and drugs.
“He was out on licence. But all he got was a fine. So much for justice.”
In London alone 6,000 cars and vehicles were stolen using electronic hacking devices, police say. Some researchers estimate as many as 45 per cent of cars are stolen using some sort of device. The National Police Chiefs’ Council says it is more like 25 per cent.
Andrew Miller, head of insurance research firm Thatcham Research, said: “We are seeing a greater rate of this happening. It’s very hard to stop.”
One gang was jailed last year for stealing £700,000 worth of Range Rovers and Land Rovers in London using a jamming device.
Many drivers targeted by key fob thieves cannot claim on insurance because there is no evidence of forced entry.
The small red gadget obtained by The Sun for £500 has four settings for different types of locking signal and can target a wide range of makes and models.
We tested it on a range of cars including a Mercedes, BMW, Vauxhall and Ford and it blocked the locking signal each time.
When asked for his response to our expose, Mario said: “I don’t know what you mean.”
POLICE forces across the country have launched a fresh clampdown on the internet sales of car key fob jammers.
Crooks have been able to buy basic jamming devices for as little as £30 online.
But now officers are pursuing websites selling the key fob blockers and shutting them down.
A National Police Chiefs’ Councils spokesman told how they regularly act on tip-off from members of the public reporting online sales of jammers. Deputy Chief Constable Matt Jukes, the NPCC lead on acquisitive crime, said: “Electronic compromise of vehicles is a small but growing feature of vehicle crime.
“It is essential people remain vigilant against this kind of electronic breach.”