There’s something that your used Hyundai and Kia dealer may not have told you. A troubling new challenge on TikTok and other social media platforms is encouraging teens to steal specific models of Kia and Hyundai vehicles. The targets are vehicles from 2010 to 2021 that use a mechanical key instead of a key fob to start the ignition. Police nationwide report surges in thefts of these vehicles linked to the social media challenge.
Skyrocketing Kia and Hyundai Theft Rates
In St. Petersburg, Florida, over a third of car thefts have been connected to the TikTok challenge since July. Los Angeles has seen an 85% increase in Kia and Hyundai thefts, and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said thefts of these models have increased over 800% in the past month in his jurisdiction, with no end in sight.
How the Thefts Work
The TikTok challenge teaches teens to break into targeted vehicles, remove the steering wheel column, and hotwire the ignition using a common USB charging cable. The entire process takes only 20 to 30 seconds. Sheriff Dart says most perpetrators are young teenagers, some not even old enough to drive.
This social media challenge may not be an issue for those who recently visited a Hyundai or Kia dealer for a newer car. Criminals target vehicles that only use a steel key to start the car, and most new vehicles come with a key fob and “push-button” start system. As of 2022, Kia installed immobilizers on new models to help curb this theft.
Joyriding and Vandalism
The stolen vehicles are often used for joyriding and to commit other crimes before being abandoned. The damage left behind can be severe. Karen Perkins of Illinois had her 2019 Kia Sorrento stolen in August. Days later, she spotted a group of teens driving and crashing her vehicle. When police recovered the abandoned Kia, the bumper and ceiling were damaged, and the inside was vandalized.
How Kia and Hyundai Owners and Law Enforcement Are Fighting Back
Some blame partially lies with Kia and Hyundai for manufacturing vehicles that are too easy to steal, according to attorney Ken McClain, who has filed lawsuits in 12 states. Kia and Hyundai say they are working to provide anti-theft wheel locks and security kits to owners of at-risk models.
For Sheriff Dart, the wheel locks, like the old school “The Club,” could be key to slowing the theft spree. “It makes it nearly impossible to maneuver the car,” he said. Drivers can find a variety of devices that can help alert would-be thieves that their car isn’t an easy target. Some Kia dealer locations are even offering free wheel locks to their customers.
If you own a Hyundai or Kia vehicle from 2010 to 2021, it would be wise to avoid an incident. Adding a security system or wheel-locking device can go a long way. It’s also worth parking in well-lit areas or securing your vehicle in a garage. You can also check with your local Hyundai or Kia dealer to explore options to keep your car safe.
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