Thieves using amplification devices to steal keyless entry vehicles

OTTAWA – Ottawa police are warning vehicle owners even with their keyless FOBs in their homes, thieves may still be able to steal your car.

“The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) recently noticed a 42 Division of Toronto Police Service public advisory about a number of overnight vehicle thefts from driveways occurring in Toronto, where vehicles with a keyless entry system or FOB system are being targeted,” the OPS released in a statement. “In these most recent thefts, the thieves are using a signal amplification device.”

It is believed thieves stand near the front door of a house, holding a device that captures the signal emitted from the keyless FOB. This device is the radio frequency amplifier that will increase the signal range of the keyless FOB.

A second person stands near the vehicle and receives the signal from the device, unlocking the vehicle. The radio frequency amplifier can also be used to start the vehicle.

Please see the Toronto police posting of a Caledon OPP security video of such a device being used.

“Our investigators have not yet seen the use of signal amplifiers in Ottawa,” the OPS said. “In the event this technology makes its way to Ottawa, a simple line of defense is to consider keeping any vehicle with a proximity key fob inside a radio frequency shield (RFS), commonly known as ‘Faraday pouch.’  This will prevent the key FOB’s signal from being amplified to the vehicle from inside the house protecting it from being driven away.”

More proactive tips to help you protect your vehicle:

  • Consider using anti-theft devices such as car alarms, steering wheel locking devices such as “The Club”, and electronic immobilizer devices; all can act as a strong deterrent!
  • GPS tracking units have become increasingly popular and some allow the vehicle owner to electronically “fence-in” their vehicle whereby an alarm cue would occur if the vehicle were to leave the fenced-in area without authorization. 
  • If possible, park your vehicle in a locked garage and or block it in tightly with a second vehicle.
  • Putting security lighting and video surveillance cameras on your home may discourage thieves.
  • Do not leave the vehicle running while unattended.
  • If you are selling your vehicle, be wary not to let anyone have access to your car keys or your vehicle out of your sight. This prevents a thief from copying your key during a test drive so they can return later to steal it.
  • Finally, good old-fashioned neighbourhood watch. If you see something suspicious, do not engage the suspected thieves, call 911, and be vigilant.

Anonymous tips can be submitted by calling Crime Stoppers toll-free at 1-800-222-8477 or at