Have You Ever Had a Car Stolen?


If you’re one of the unfortunate people to have experienced an auto theft, you’re familiar with how invasive and unsettling it is to know someone has your car.

At first you think you just can’t remember where you parked. You spin in circles, visually scouring the parking lot for any sign of your car. Then you replay the events in your mind of where you parked and try to convince yourself that your memory isn’t playing tricks on you.

Soon the realization sets in that you haven’t merely misplaced your car, it’s been stolen.

Varying degrees of panic ensue, along with calls to the police and family members asking for help. In some cases the car is found and returned unharmed. Sometimes it’s found but completely destroyed. Sometimes it’s never found at all.

Keep reading for an example of a car returned 42 years after it was stolen, and an attempted theft that resulted in some hefty “car-ma” for a would-be thief.

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Accidental Car Theft: It’s a Thing


As a teenager, I drove a 1984 Honda Accord. It was charcoal gray, just like every other 1984 Accord in existence.

On more than one occasion I remember walking up to the wrong one, even putting my hand on the door handle, before realizing it wasn’t my car. For me, the first indication that it wasn’t mine was the lack of a wet towel jammed between the leaky sunroof and the headliner to prevent rainwater from dousing my head.

While it would’ve been nice to drive away in a car with leak-proof roof, I never did steal anyone’s car in place of mine.

Many years later my mom drove a 2012 Subaru. She parked at a grocery store, but came back to the wrong car and actually sat down inside and tried to start it before realizing she’d made a mistake.

A funny story out of the New York Post tells the tale of a mother who actually succeeded in an accidental theft, which makes me wonder just how often things like this happen.

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How Not to Get Your Car Back If Stolen

Car thief in action

A friend of mine recently had his 1989 Mazda B2200 stolen for the second time in 3 years. That’s an unfortunate streak of bad luck, but on the flip side, at least he was lucky enough to get the truck back once. For most people, once a car is stolen, it lives on only in memory. If recovered, it is usually only a sad shell of its former self. (Please share a moment of silence for my beloved 1984 Toyota 4X4, stolen in its prime and recovered a week later, completely destroyed.)

I certainly have empathy for those who have to deal with a car theft and understand the desire to do almost anything to get the car back. Sometimes, though, the immediate decision to act isn’t the smartest choice.

Unless it works out.

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Keyless Entry: Convenience or Invitation to Hackers?

Keyless entry

The following thoughts are occasioned by a recent trip to Boston, during which I drove my nephew’s Mazda CX-9. Beautiful car, with all the goodies, including keyless entry and auto-start. My first thought was how hackable that thing was.

Hacking keyless entry to unlock and start cars has become all the rage, even in Africa. A rash of car thefts in Rustenburg, S.A., was caused by thieves using “a universal remote available on the black market that allegedly opens about 50% of the latest cars available on the market.”

The more sophisticated keyless car systems get, the more vulnerabilities they seem to offer. Bad boys can hack your smartphone pretty easily, and Apple’s voice-command Siri can be hacked to start your car with a proxy server. Media players are now a target:

Earlier this year, researchers from the University of California, San Diego and the University of Washington hid a Trojan on a CD, which, once inserted into the stereo, gave them access to the vehicle’s full computer system. And this past summer, researchers at the Black Hat Security Conference demonstrated a proof-of-concept hack in which they hacked into a car’s security system using a text message.

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Stealing Cars Through Text Message

2011 Subaru Outback

I miss the good ol’ days. Like back in 1998, when the economy was booming, we had a care-free president, the Dow Jones was about to cross the 10,000 mark for the first time and crooks broke into cars with crowbars and screwdrivers.

Things were good.

It was in 1998 that I had a Toyota Pickup stolen from a Seattle park ‘n’ ride. The thieves broke into the truck like any good thief would: by jamming a screwdriver into the keyhole and breaking the door open. It’s a quick, efficient way to bust into a car and lets any moron with the desire to break the law get in on the Grand Theft Auto action. (Which, for the record, is a terrible, no good, very bad way to make a living.)

Just 13 years later things are completely different. The economy is sagging, we have a quickly graying president, the Dow Jones is about to hit 10,000 (from the other side this time) and people can break into cars without the old-fashioned tools of the trade. Instead they can use a text message.

Man, I want 1998 back.

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