The in basket: I was cleaning out my old e-mail messages the other day and found one from a friend, sent in August 2008, warning of a supposed new way for thieves to break into your car.
The e-mail, with “This has been checked on Snopes” displayed prominently, told of code-grabbing devices that snatches the code of your keyless entry device when you use it to lock your vehicle as you walk away. The e-mail says the thieves then use the code to enter your car, confident that you’ll be away for a while.
Use the lock button inside your car instead, it said. It didn’t mention using the key in the outside lock, but I’d think that would work too.
Snopes, of course, is Snopes.com, which is highly regarded as an online source of debunking warnings and rumors that need debunking. I checked to see if the claim of its support for that e-mail was valid.
The out basket: If it really was checked on Snopes, it was then sent out despite the fact that Snopes calls most of it out of date. The site even quoted the e-mail sent to me word for word in its dismissal of the danger.
Cars with keyless remotes from the 1980s or early 1990s are susceptible to code grabbers, Snopes says, but the industry devised rolling random codes that would take hours and a lot of expertise to capture, essentially eliminating the chance a thief in the parking lot with you could get into your car anywhere near quickly enough to do it safely.
Of course, if you are a diamond merchant who carries his inventory with him, it might be worth it to a thief who knows that to track your car down after the arduous capture is complete, but for the ordinary citizen, it’s safe to use your keyless entry.
“None of the police agencies we spoke to had ever heard of an automobile break-in accomplished by the method described,” Snopes said.
The Snopes item has been updated since discussing the e-mail and mentions a different threat to keyless entries expected to be displayed at security symposium in San Diego in February of this year. But the system costs a lot, and requires two antennas, one of which must be within eight meters of the key and the other near the car, it said. Snopes expects the industry to work on defeating it too.
If all that still leaves a nagging doubt in your mind, locking your car with your key and using the remote to open it when you plan to drive away would preserve half of the utility of your keyless remote.