Thieves Have a New Trick to Break into Cars

In this digital age, technology has become an integral part of our lives. We rely on our smartphones, laptops, and other electronic devices for communication, entertainment, and work. However, the convenience of these devices comes with a risk, especially when it comes to leaving them unattended in our vehicles. Tech-savvy thieves have found a new way to target cars by using Bluetooth technology.

Understanding Bluetooth Technology

Before we delve into how thieves are exploiting Bluetooth technology, let’s first understand what Bluetooth is. Britannica defines Bluetooth as a technology standard used for short-range wireless pairing of mobile devices. This wireless communication protocol allows devices to connect and exchange data over short distances.

Bluetooth is commonly built into cellphones, tablets, laptops, portable monitors, headphones, speakers, smartwatches, and fitness trackers. These devices, which often retail for hundreds of dollars, are not only convenient but also highly sought after by thieves.

The Rise of Bluetooth-Enabled Car Break-Ins

According to the Livermore Police Department in California, thieves in the San Francisco Bay Area have been using cellphones and Bluetooth-scanning apps to locate devices left in cars. This emerging crime trend has raised concerns among law enforcement agencies and car owners alike.

Sergeant Tim Lendman from the Livermore Police Department explains that thieves can use their regular smartphones, equipped with Bluetooth-scanning apps or even just the device itself, to target vehicles with Bluetooth-enabled devices. These thieves can detect other Bluetooth devices within range, even if they are hidden or on sleep mode.

By analyzing the strength of the Bluetooth connection, thieves can pinpoint the exact location of these hidden devices. This can be done manually by searching with a cellphone in hand or with the use of a Bluetooth-scanning app.

The Risks of Leaving Electronics in Your Vehicle

Leaving electronics unattended in your vehicle poses a significant risk, especially if you have Bluetooth-enabled devices. Thieves can easily identify which cars are worth breaking into by scanning for Bluetooth signals. Once they locate a device, they know that valuable electronics may be within reach.

The Livermore Police Department advises car owners to follow best practices and avoid leaving any electronics in their vehicles. However, if you must leave electronics behind, the second-best option is to ensure they are completely powered off. This reduces the chances of thieves detecting the Bluetooth signal and targeting your vehicle.

Bluetooth Finder Apps: A Double-Edged Sword

Bluetooth finder apps were originally designed to help people locate devices they have lost. These apps use Bluetooth technology to establish a connection between the lost device and the user’s smartphone. While these apps can be helpful for legitimate purposes, they also provide an avenue for thieves to exploit Bluetooth technology.

Various Bluetooth finder apps are available online, making it easier for anyone to track down Bluetooth-enabled devices. Thieves can use these apps to identify which cars have valuable electronics inside, increasing the likelihood of a break-in.

Regional Variations in Bluetooth Car Break-Ins

While Bluetooth-enabled car break-ins have been reported in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is unclear how widespread this crime trend is outside of California. In December 2022, a Houston-based news station issued a warning about thieves using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi trackers to locate devices in cars.

To determine the prevalence of Bluetooth-scanning methods, it is essential to gather data from law enforcement agencies across different regions. However, regardless of the extent of this crime trend, it is crucial for car owners to take precautions to protect their belongings.

Protecting Yourself from Bluetooth-Enabled Car Break-Ins

To safeguard your electronics and reduce the risk of falling victim to Bluetooth-enabled car break-ins, here are some steps you can take:

1. Remove Valuables from Your Vehicle

The best practice is to remove all electronics from your vehicle whenever possible. By taking your devices with you, you eliminate the possibility of them being targeted by thieves.

2. Power Off Your Devices

If you have no choice but to leave electronics in your car, make sure they are completely powered off. This prevents thieves from detecting the Bluetooth signal and reduces the likelihood of your vehicle becoming a target.

3. Keep Electronics Out of Sight

If you must leave electronics in your car, ensure they are not visible from the outside. Place them in the trunk or hide them under seats to minimize the temptation for thieves.

4. Use Physical Security Measures

Consider using physical security measures such as steering wheel locks or car alarms to deter thieves. While these measures may not directly prevent Bluetooth-enabled car break-ins, they can make your vehicle less attractive to thieves.

5. Be Mindful of Parking Locations

When parking your car, choose well-lit areas with high foot traffic. Thieves are less likely to target vehicles in busy and well-monitored locations.

6. Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Stay vigilant and be aware of your surroundings when entering or exiting your vehicle. Look out for suspicious individuals or activities that may indicate potential theft.

7. Install a Car Tracking System

Consider installing a car tracking system that can help locate your vehicle in the event of a theft. While this may not directly prevent Bluetooth-enabled car break-ins, it can assist in recovering your vehicle and belongings.

8. Report Suspicious Activity

If you notice any suspicious activity or believe your car has been targeted, report it to the local authorities immediately. Providing timely information can help law enforcement take necessary action and prevent further crimes.



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