JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Police are warning about a social media trend that shows how criminals can use a USB cable — instead of a key — to start Kias and Hyundais.
Essentially, people are breaking into these cars, taking apart the ignition, and starting the car with a phone charger (USB cord).
It’s making the popular automobiles a prime target for car thieves. The cases are growing across the U.S. and Florida.
According to the St. Petersburg Police Department, 23 of the 56 cars stolen since July 11 (40%) were Kia or Hyundai models, WFLA reported.
Police body camera footage showed a takedown at gunpoint Tuesday, as Volusia County deputies arrested three teenagers driving a stolen Kia Soul.
“Keep your hands where I can see them — now walk back to the sound of my voice,” a deputy yelled as three people inside the SUV, parked at a gas station, exited the car.
Two 14-year-olds and a 17-year-old are now in big trouble — charged with grand theft auto after deputies said they stole the SUV based on a social media trend.
“They just ripped it apart and they started it right away,” Edwin Rodriguez, the owner of the SUV, told News4JAX sister station WKMG.
Rodriguez said the juveniles broke his window as the SUV was parked at his Deland apartment. They boosted his vehicle in seconds.
“It gets you very upset, very mad, especially for low-income people,” he told WKMG.
That same day, deputies recovered another stolen Kia Soul. It appears thieves did the same thing. Deputies noted there was a third attempt nearby.
“Stealing the SUVs is easy as 1-2-3,” according to step-by-step directions on YouTube and TikTok.
Thieves tear out the steering column and use a simple USB cable to start the ignition. This affects Kia models from 2011 to 2021 and Hyundai models from 2015 to 2021. Both companies say 2022 vehicles have been modified to prevent this.
The owners we spoke to had no idea this could happen.
“They’re coming up with new (expletive) every day,” Matty, who drives a Kia, told News4JAX.
Jacksonville auto theft detectives said they’re well aware of the trend. Christian Hancock, an officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, said at least two people have been arrested in Jacksonville for these particular cases.
“It mimics what you see on social media,” Hancock said. “The suspects utilized this methodology that they’re showing on social media.”
Officers are now warning all drivers to lock their doors, park in a well-lit space near cameras, keep valuables out of the vehicle and consider a steering wheel lock.
“You can do things to make yourself a non-victim, or at least help that,” Hancock added. “Do everything you can do, and the bad guy will move on to the next one.”
KIA and Hyundai spokespeople said anyone with questions about their car’s safety can call customer support.
“Kia America is aware of the rise in vehicle thefts of a subset of trim level vehicles in your area. As of the current 2022 Model Year, all Kia vehicles have an engine immobilizer fitted as standard. All Kia vehicles for sale in the U.S. meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards,” the company said in a statement. “Kia customers with questions regarding their Kia vehicle should contact the Consumer Assistance Center directly at 1-800-333-4542 (4Kia).”
“Hyundai Motor America is concerned with the rise in local auto thefts,” the company wrote. “The safety and well-being of our customers and the community is and will remain our top priority. These vehicles meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and engine immobilizers are standard equipment on all new Hyundai vehicles. Hyundai customers who have questions can always contact the Hyundai Consumer Assistance Center at 800-633-5151.”
The makers of TikTok and YouTube are asking anyone who sees the videos about stealing cars to report them immediately.
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