It sounds like something from a James Bond movie or another spy film: A thief uses technology to "capture" the electronic signal emitted by a key fob and later uses that stolen code to break into a car.
You may have seen some of the emails circulating about this topic, but like many email forwards, is it really a hoax?
The answer is actually "yes" and "no."
Popular urban legend debunking site says the claim that "code grabbers" can break into cars by recording signals sent by remote keyless entry devices is only partly true.
According to the site, automobile remote keyless entry systems were introduced in the 1980s. Early systems actually were susceptible to the type of attack described above; transmitters built into key fobs sent unique identifying codes that could be picked up by "code grabbers," devices that record the codes sent out when drivers push buttons on their remote key fobs to lock or unlock their cars. However, automakers now have shifted from using fixed codes to systems with rolling random codes that change every time car doors are locked or unlocked.
So, is it still possible for a thief to snatch your code? According to Police Chief Jim Daily, "Anything is possible with the right equipment."
However, he's never heard of this problem occurring in the Newton area, and neither has Barry Havens with Howard's Lock & Key in Newton.
Havens said this would be very difficult to do and has not heard of anyone actually being able to snatch a code; realistically, people probably don't have to be very afraid of this happening, he said. "There's a lot of myth on this out there that gets these things started."
According to, the complexity and length of time involved in the process means a typical crook can't simply grab a code in a parking lot and open up the corresponding car in a minute or two. The thief would need specialized knowledge and equipment and would have to spend hours, if not days, crunching data and replicating a device to produce the correct entry code, the site says.
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