Car thieves are putting together 'shopping lists' on WhatsApp.

Vehicle protection specialists AX have revealed that criminals are using WhatsApp groups to coordinate car thefts.

The firms says that crime gangs use the messenger service to put together 'shopping lists' of cars they want to steal. The encrypted nature of WhatsApp makes it ideal for criminals stealing cars to order, and makes messages difficult to trace.

A rise in car thefts across Britain has been attributed to the vulnerability of 'keyless' systems, which criminals can exploit using devices like key signal amplifiers and decoders

According to the Home Office, the number of cars stolen in Britain has doubled over the last five years, with stolen in 2017-18, up from 75,308 in the 2013-14 financial year.

Thieves sitting in a car talking on the phone and planning their next target

"The highly organised criminal networks are constantly looking for more secure ways to carry on their ‘businesses’ online and use social media with encrypted messaging capabilities or even online games to covertly communicate with each other” said AX’s director of investigative services, Neil Thomas.

"The sheer volume of thefts is practically a car theft epidemic and is enabling criminals to purchase costly technology which then fuels even more car crime."

Thief hacking car security system with laptop

"The thieves who take the initial risk get the cash payment, then the buyer, who now has a tracker-free car can then take their time to strip it, clone it or export it. This is where the profit is, especially in terms of the parts which can amount to much more than the complete vehicle," he added. "We’ve been highly successful in recovering vehicles for our clients. However, it is usually only possible if they can be traced and this requires specific technology as well as the instinct of experienced professionals."

THE 5-STEP PROCESS USED BY VEHICLE THIEVES
(ACCORDING TO AX’S NEIL THOMAS)

1

Research the demand for specific makes and models with criminal associates and find a buyer

2

Identify ways to combat factory fitted security measures using online research and sometimes ‘friends’ who work in the industry

3

Locate and steal the vehicle by overcoming security features

4

Dispose of vehicle through criminal network and receive payment

5

Repeat process