I see technology as a tool. It can serve us very well. It saves lives. Technology makes you more productive, so you work less and spend time with family. It can also be used against you. Evil people use technological advances to encrypt hospitals’ networks and demand ransom. They can clone your keys and steal your car. It is what happened to me. They walked towards my house, went to my driveway and stole my car on a bright day. Due to the advanced technology, all of it took them less than a minute. Thieves stole my car but I got it back! Thanks to technology and the quick reaction of good people. Let’s dive into this story.
I am very pragmatic when it comes to purchasing new things. It was not a very long time ago I used Apple iPhone SE. I changed it recently to a “modern” phone because I needed dual SIM functionality. Also, recently, I was driving an 11-year-old car. I changed to a “modern” car because we, as a family, decided that travelling was our goal, so we needed a more reliable vehicle.
The car has been fantastic, and we’ve been delighted with it. However, after we had bought it, we discovered this model was number two regarding the rank of the most stolen cars in our district.
Catch me if you can 🤯
It was a usual Monday. I was working from home. We dropped the kids at school in the morning, had time for a quick coffee with my wife, and started work. Nothing unusual, up until the early afternoon when my wife, ready to jump to the car for the afternoon school run, informed me with a higher than usual pitch, “our car is gone!! I think someone has stolen it!!”.
I ran downstairs, and seconds later, I was standing in the empty driveway in disbelief, “Yes, I think it is stolen since it’s not here”. In hindsight, I see the usual denial mechanism was in play here. For a moment, I didn’t believe it was happening to us. However, the empty driveway was a quick validation. I was brought to the cold reality by my wife shouting, “Camera! Let’s check the camera!”.
Go go, Gadget 📡
Of course! We have a camera facing the driveway. It must’ve recorded something. A minute later, I saw the footage of a teenage-looking short, skinny person, wearing a full ninja costume (I am not kidding, s/he had even a black face mask), crouching towards our car. Casually opening it, and then, 20 seconds later, driving it away. That’s it.
Checking the camera and dealing with technology I love quickly reminded me of another fact.
Tracker! I installed a tracker! It’s probably been one of the most rumoured pieces of technology in Apple’s history. Apple AirTag. I bought it straight after it became available and attached it to most of our keys. I also installed one in our car, just in case. Well, today was that case.
Fast and furious 🏎️
I fired the “Find My” app, and after the usual lag that felt like an eternity, the map was updated, and I saw the pointer and direction. “I gotch ya”.
We quickly went to our neighbours. She was in, working from home. We briefly explained what happened. She didn’t need any further info and was ready to help us. We boarded her car like a SWAT team prepared for action.
I was giving her directions. At the same time, my wife called the school to inform them we had a situation with our car and someone else would pick up our kids. She gave them the password, an essential piece of the safety procedure. Then, she called our friend whose kid attends the same school. Finally, my communication officer called Police to open the case and request backup since we were approaching the place on the map where the tracker was leading us. We received a confirmation that the enforcement task unit would be with us in 7 minutes.
James Bond 🦊
We slowed down the car when we approached the small, quiet street. I was switching between looking around and staring at the map on my phone.
There was no sign of our car, though. We passed where the “Find My” app was pointing, hoping the vehicle could be nearby. Next, we did a couple of rounds to spot our lost, lonely car. We probably looked like the Terminator in one of these famous scenes, searching the area around.
The reality was a cold shower. There were no signs of our car.
We went out and started to check the surroundings. I was looking for the Apple AirTag, thinking that thief had found it and thrown it away. My wife and our neighbour started examining the buildings around us.
One of the buildings looked very suspicious—all windows were covered. Two rubbish bins were in the middle of the driveway in front of the small garage. It all looked like done in a hurry.
Johnny English 🤪
We assessed the situation, and our conclusion from the current data was that our car was in that garage. My wife called Police; they were on their way. In the meantime, I was still looking at the street, trying to find if my tracker was somewhere there. I looked at my phone again, and to my surprise, the tracker’s location changed. It was now pointing to the parallel street about 350 metres away. I started running in that direction, shouting to my wife that the car was moving. My wife responded that Police were coming as she saw them driving in our direction.
This is where my story gets a bit comical.
I was running towards the car’s new location with my phone in my hand, looking anxiously around. The police officer, instructed quickly by my wife, was running after me, thinking I was the thief.
My wife and our neighbour were running after the police officer, trying to explain more details. The police car was closing this bizarre scene with the second officer driving it.
Sherlock Holmes 🔎
It turned out my car was parked on the other street. My stirring wheal lock was used to secure it! The police officer caught up to me. After a bit of explaining, we were finally on the same page. The car was stolen. We are owners, and our neighbour gave us a lift to where our tracker pointed us.
We looked around and decided to open the car. The first decision was whether we wanted to leave the vehicle for the complete forensic analysis. It would take a few weeks, so we decided not to. However, the Police took our stirring wheel lock and the SOS module (that thief ripped off and left in the front seat) to find possible fingerprints. We drove our car to our home, escorted by the police car, and I showed them video footage.
The Police didn’t find anything. I needed to pay horrendously for replacement parts and “stolen and recovery” service. It was very emotional, but, in the end, we were happy that we got our car back.
And that was it.
Or was it??
Ocean Thirteen 🤓
A couple of weeks later, we dropped our kids at school, and we parked our car in our driveway. Our neighbours from a few homes apart approached us. They were pretty shaken, and we quickly established that their vehicle was also stolen a few hours ago, and they had just recovered it. Thanks to the fact we informed them about our incident. And we recommended Apple AirTag. They bought it the next day and placed it in their car.
They were grateful we shared our story with them. We felt happy they got their car back. Technology served us again to win the battle with the bad guys. We exchanged information about what we have done since then, what we learned, and what else we can do.
Lesson learned from this coffee journey 🎓
Security measures not in use 🔐
We knew our car was popular in theft rankings. We bought the Faraday pouches for our keys and used them only for nights. Cars are being stolen during the bright day!
We also bought a steering wheel lock. Same thing. We put it for the night only. Mistake!
We now park defensively against one of our walls, always use the Faraday pouch for our keys and put the wheel lock.
Additionally, I installed one of the wireless cameras inside the car in the visible place, and a red led light up.
Convenience versus safety 🔑
While investigating the issue, I found out that the most probably bad actors use the keyless proximity function. In a nutshell, it is a convenient thing. You approach your car and you don’t need to press anything. Just grab the handle and open a door. The car will unlock it automatically. The problem is that there is constant communication between a car and a key. You can intercept this communication, amplify the signal and open the door.
I’ve done some research and disabled the keyless function in our car. It is a combination of buttons that need to press in our fob key. Check the links below or look up Interwebs to do it now!
I would like to thank a ton to our neighbour, who just jumped into the case within seconds. She drove us to our car and helped throughout that stressful moments.
Special thanks go to our other friend. We have kids at the same school, and they are also friends. Our families are far away, and in a way, we treat each other like extended family. When it comes to an emergency situation like that one, we know we can rely on each other.
We also worked as a team with my beloved wife. She was calmly calling all the needed numbers, explaining what happened and asking for help. Awesome team work!
Useful links 🌐
- Apple AirTag
- Prevent Keyless Car Theft – 8 Quick Tips
- Steering Wheel Lock
- Faraday Pouch for car keys
- How to disable the keyless car remote function
- Crime prevention tips&tricks from Police
Popular this week 🗞️ ☕️
Thanks for reading!
If you enjoyed this article, feel free to share it on social media and spread some positivity.
I received some question:
how do you charge that tool is its installed in a car? How often do you need to charge it?
➡️ Your AirTag battery life should last for around one year, depending on your usage.
➡️ The battery is replaceable with another CR2032 lithium coin battery.
➡️ To replace the battery, unscrew the silver cap from the AirTag, swap batteries, and screw the cap back in place.
More info: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT211670