How would you feel if you returned to your car in a public parking lot only to find that your valuable contents have disappeared? Poof…vanished into thin air. You might first wonder if you really left your bag, phone, checkbook, or other valuables in the car, but you quickly realize that you did. You’re lost for an explanation. Where did they go? Have they been stolen? But how? The windows aren’t broken, and you can’t detect any sign of forced entry.
Well, the only possible answer left, is that you have probably been the victim of a new trend in crime: Remote Jamming (that or you are becoming senile).
What is Remote Jamming?
Technical Background: Remote car openers (or in everyday terminology: car remotes) function by transmitting a radio signal to a receiver installed in the vehicle. So, once you click on your remote, a signal is sent to the car receiver which tells your car to "lock" or "open". In South Africa, regulations stipulate that car remotes function on a specific frequency – 433 Mhz.
Remote jamming is the process of interfering with this frequency so that the signal doesn’t get through. What this means is, that despite properly pressing the button on your remote, giving the "order" to lock the car, the signal never reaches the vehicle and the car does not lock because someone else is actively jamming the signal. The car owner thinks their doors are securely locked, when in fact the signal has been jammed and the door locks never received it. The unsuspecting car owner walks away under the false impression that their car is locked. The criminal can now quickly seize the opportunity to simply open the unlocked vehicle and walk off with whatever you have left in the car (and most of us do leave their valuables under the car seat, seeing how they are scared of being robbed in the street).
Surprisingly, remote jamming is easy to do, either by using a low cost jamming machine (we found one for 23$) or by simultaneously using another standard car remote whilst in proximity to the "target" vehicle. Whatever system the criminal uses, the effect is the same.
Best of all for the criminals, since no glass is broken and they aren’t doing anything else suspicious, they can calmly empty the car in plain sight of any witnesses who never realize they are actually watching a crime taking place in front of their eyes!
What do the Insurance Companies say about Remote Jamming?
Many victims of this ingenious tactic have found that their car insurance theft policy does not cover remote jamming incidents. Typically, insurance policies explicitly state that payout is conditional on the presence of forced entry. If there is no forced entry, the assumption is that the owner negligently failed to lock their car, canceling the right to any possible claim. Some insurance companies will consider security camera video evidence that the policy holder made a good faith attempt to lock the doors, but the insurer may be under no legal obligation to do so. From an initial check that Carinfo.co.za did (by calling 7 insurance companies), 3 said that they would not cover claims due to remote jamming, 3 said that it is in their discretion and on a "per case basis", and 1 said that they would be willing to pay a limited amount without specifying the amount. Bottom line: Do not count on insurance companies paying out in cases where remote jamming is involved, and rather follow our tips on how to avoid this (here below)
Care to complain to the insurance Ombudsman about your insurer’s lack of responsiveness to remote jamming attacks? Our article How to file a complaint with the Car Insurance Ombudsman will show you how, but you should be aware that current Ombudsman policy is to consider the policyholder at fault for failing to confirm that the remote actually locked the car doors.
Golden Tips to prevent Remote Jamming
- Physically pull your door handle to confirm it’s locked (even though this is a bit of a pain).
- Make sure your remote activates an audible and visual signal – flashing lights and/or a beep. If your car doesn’t already do this, ask your mechanic to rewire the opener so it does.
- Don’t leave valuables inside your car. If you have no choice, hide them well, and preferably in the boot.
- Park within range of a security camera. In case you do get robbed, this might help to convince the insurance company that a crime occurred.
The best tip though, is number one! Follow this, and you won't be a victim of remote jamming.
If you take reasonable precautions, such as physically checking your car doors, or see the lights flash, you can avoid becoming a victim of remote jamming. Storing valuables away from prying eyes may also help prevent theft. In any case, it’s wise to be aware of the coverage limits of your car insurance policy (See our article: 6 things to check before choosing your vehicle insurance).
Main subject: Remote Jamming
Other Interesting Posts
How to Pay Traffic Fines
Have you received a notice that you have traffic fines to pay? Do you plan ...read more
How to Sell a Car
If you browse the classifieds, you might be surprised at how many “car for sale” ...read more