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Any van driver with a keyless ignition system should beware – there has been a 100 per cent rise in the incidence of commercial vehicles being stolen without the owner’s keys.

The figures support anecdotal reports by any driver van insurance policyholders regarding the security of their vehicles, with vans frequently targeted for both the value of the vehicles themselves as well as their contents.

Tracker, a company which specialises in commercial vehicle security solutions, reports that 82 per cent of van thefts in 2017 occurred without the owner’s keys being used; the same type of theft accounted for only 44 per cent of such incidents recorded by Tracker in the previous year.

According to the firm, both criminal gangs and lone wolf operators are targeting commercial vehicles that have keyless ignition systems, apparently using technology that deceives vehicles into unlocking even without the use of the official key.

These so-called relay thefts can happen to any van driver, and although insurance policies are likely to cover losses caused by the crime, having a vehicle stolen in this way can cause inconvenience, emotional distress and rises in the cost of any driver van insurance come renewal time.

“Keyless entry technology has now been widely adopted in the LCV market, and this is evident in the fact that last year there was a two-fold increase in LCVs being stolen without the owner’s keys,” commented Tracker’s head of police liaison.

“The relatively new trend in vehicle theft termed ‘relay attack’, that allows criminals to harness more sophisticated theft techniques to overcome existing vehicle security technology, such as immobilisers and keyless entry systems, has played a significant part in this increase,” he added.

Last year footage recorded by West Midlands Police attracted the attention of van drivers. It showed a Mercedes van being stolen from outside a private residence. The ‘relay theft’ took less than a minute to complete.

Any van driver who is concerned about the possibility of having their keyless ignition system hacked by thieves should consider additional steps to secure their vehicle. For example, steering wheel and gear stick locks are both relatively inexpensive and serve as good deterrents to thieves.