BMW April 2022

Motor thieves are using WhatsApp groups to plan and execute car thefts. This is according to vehicle protection company AX. They found that criminals draw up and share “shopping lists” of makes and models so that vehicles can be stolen to order. 

Fuelled by encrypted social media platforms, the wave of thefts has been intensified by the vulnerability of “keyless” systems which criminals are able to exploit using key signal amplifiers and decoders costing thousands. 

Neil Thomas, AX director of investigative services, said, “The highly organised criminal networks are constantly looking for more secure ways to carry on their “businesses” online and use social media with encrypted messaging capabilities or even online games to covertly communicate with each other. The sheer volume of thefts is practically a car theft epidemic and is enabling criminals to purchase expensive technology which then fuels even more crime.” 

Typically, criminals, or whole gangs in some cases, mobilise on social media where they agree their preferred targets, pricing and buyer before preparing bogus number plates from similar vehicles to rapidly clone vehicles. “The thieves who take the initial risk get the cash payment, then the buyer, who now has a tracker-free car can then take their time to strip it, clone it or export it. This is where the profit is, especially in terms of the parts which can amount to much more than the complete vehicle.,” Thomas said.