How to foil a ‘fob job’

Monday, November 30, 2020by  PEMCO Insurance

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Think porch pirating is the most despicable crime a thief can commit without entering your home? Consider the "fob job." That's when a thief unlocks your car by amplifying the signal from your keyless fob – even if it's safely inside your home.

GettyImages-1182725565.jpgThe crime (technically called a "relay attack") relies on some techno-trickery to hijack the signal from your key fob, fool your car into unlocking and allow the thief to steal whatever's inside. And for some push-to-start cars, the thief could even drive away, since the engine will run when it's out of range of your fob until the driver shuts it off or the car runs out of gas.

The technique doesn't work on all keyless models, and fob jobs are hard to detect, since there's no broken glass on the ground, no blaring car alarm, no missing key fob. And fortunately, since the amplification equipment requires some technical know-how, it's outside the realm of many common car thieves.

Still, it may be worth safeguarding your keyless fob in a pouch that blocks radio signals (similar to an RFID-blocking sleeve for your credit card), especially if you'll be parking outside at a hotel during the holidays. Even dropping your keys into a metal coffee can may interfere with the signal enough to help.

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Comments on this post

personScott Breidenbach01/02/2021 12:20 PM

How close does the thief have to be to the fob to amplify the signal? 
personmarcy broder12/22/2020 03:20 PM
Does wrapping the credit cards & key fob in aluminum foil work as well as putting them in a metal can?
personKaren Barcklay 12/07/2020 09:12 AM
Where can we buy radio signal blockers for our car fobs?
personVince Dayton12/04/2020 01:32 PM
Reminder that it's always a good idea not to leave any valuables in your vehicle while it's unattended. As for the vehicle itself, there are now available GPS tracking systems (including hidden tagging devices) with apps you can use on your mobile device to track where the vehicle is located. Some vehicles now come preinstalled with this technology. However, it can also be purchased in after market products as well. Do not try to recover your vehicle yourself if you believe the vehicle is stolen.This can be dangerous, especially if the theft is performed by organized crime. Give the GPS information to the police when you report the vehicle is stolen so the police can perform recovery. They may also be able to arrest the bad guy(s).
personPEMCO Insurance12/04/2020 01:04 PM
Hi, Jonathan – Thanks for asking for clarification. Relay attacks change with technology as criminals adapt to exploit vulnerabilities in car security systems, and there are likely several variations on relay attacks. Our understanding is this: There’s no one specific style of fob that is linked to the crimes. Some cars/model years may be more susceptible than others. We believe the crimes are fairly uncommon. Still, we recommend you consider safeguarding your fob whenever your car is locked and parked outside, yet your fob is not far away. That might be when the fob is stashed on your bedside table for the night, in your desk at the office or tucked inside a suitcase in your hotel room. The surest way to prevent a fob job (and vandalism and car theft, in general) is to park inside a locked garage whenever possible.
personBill Mazzoni12/04/2020 12:36 PM
Interesting.  The technology implied in this article appears to involve the high-tech thieves somehow extracting the key fob's coded signal without the fob's button needing to be pressed.

The variation of the Protect-Your-Key-Fob advice that I've known about relates to actually USING it to lock/unlock your car, because at that time it's actually broadcasting a signal that someone with the right equipment might be able to receive and "copy" that signal while you're away from your car.  The recommended "foil" for that type of signal theft involves locking your door mechanically (i.e. by hand instead of with the key fob) when you park your car in a public place, and using your key to re-enter the car when you return.
personDon Parda12/04/2020 03:18 AM
Simply placing your keys in a metal container with a tight fitting lid will block the signals.
personJonathan Pasley12/03/2020 06:34 PM
Not enough details provided for me to totally follow how this crime works. Or how the protections work. Are talking old fobs where you have to push a button or the new ones that just work by proximity? Like, when do I put my fob in a coffee can? While I'm driving? When I unlock my door?
When is the thief operating? When I get to my car and push FOB unlock? Anytime I'm near by with just my FOB in my pocket--or do I need to be using my FOB? What? Don't get it.
personSteve Long12/03/2020 05:47 PM
New information I have never heard of prior to reading this post.
Thanks for the input and suggested solutions.

personSteve Long12/03/2020 05:46 PM
New information I have never heard of prior to reading this post.
Thanks for the input and suggested solutions.

personJim Strom12/03/2020 05:25 PM
These always contain valuable information that gets you to think about things you need to know.

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