Viral TikTok Video Leads To More Vehicle Thefts

By: James Flippin · March 17, 2023 · Reading Time: 3 minutes

Kia & Hyundai Targeted

Over the past two years, there has been a significant spike in car thefts across the US, with major metros like NYC and LA reporting decade-plus highs. Even smaller cities are seeing up to triple-digit percentage increases in auto thefts. Since 2020, car thefts have doubled in Milwaukee. And, in St. Louis, they spiked 157% from the second half of 2021 to the second half of 2022.

Notably, two specific brands appear to be the targets of this unfortunate trend: Hyundai (HYMTF) and Kia (KIMTF). Last year, 70% of cars stolen in Milwaukee were one of these two brands. And, in October alone, 1,000 Kia vehicles were stolen in Chicago.

Hotwiring Goes Viral

In a modern twist, a viral TikTok video has contributed to the auto theft spree.

A video known as the “Kia Challenge” was first posted in 2021 by users calling themselves the Kia Boys. It highlighted a security flaw in Kia models from 2011 to 2021 and Hyundai models from 2015 to 2021 that makes them easier to hotwire.

These car models were built without an electronic immobilizer, a unique chip in the key fob required to start the car. Without this immobilizer, it’s possible to hijack the vehicle using only a USB cord.

What Can You Do?

Insurance giants State Farm and Progressive (PGR) have stopped insuring the vulnerable Kia and Hyundai models. Some garages are even refusing to work on the vehicles, as doing so could be a liability if they’re stolen.

That said, owners do have some recourse as Hyundai and Kia announced drivers can access a free technology upgrade to restrict unauthorized operation of a vehicle. If you own one of the affected models, the software upgrade could be an ideal solution.

In the meantime, it could be worth taking extra steps to protect your vehicle, such as purchasing a steering wheel lock. If you don’t own one of these vehicles, consider sharing this story with friends and family who do. Awareness is one of the best forms of defense.

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