The keyless car crime loophole: If thieves use electronic trickery, insurers may refuse to pay out

Victims of keyless car break-ins are being refused payouts as they cannot prove the theft took place.

Money Mail has discovered that belongings stolen from cars when electronic locking systems are hacked are not always covered by insurers, because many policies insist customers must prove that ‘force and violence’ was used.

It means someone whose car window was smashed to steal a bag would find it easier to claim than if criminals had hacked their keyless entry system.

If thieves use electronic hacking to break into a car, insurers may refuse to pay for stolen items Refused payouts: Experts are calling on insurers to update their policies to keep pace with new technology and include crimes where 'electronic force' has been used such as hacking Risk: If your key fob is in your house, for example, criminals can use a device to increase the signal so the car thinks the fob is closer than it is and they can still open the door Risk: If your key fob is in your house, for example, criminals can use a device to increase the signal so the car thinks the fob is closer than it is and they can still open the door

Risk: If your key fob is in your house, for example, criminals can use a device to increase the signal so the car thinks the fob is closer than it is and they can still open the door 

Yet Ageas still refused his claim — and the Ombudsman backed the insurer, saying: ‘Based on the policy terms, Ageas acted correctly in turning down the claim as no forcible entry was used.’

Rory Stoves, of comparison site uSwitch, says: ‘This is a clear example of the policy wording not keeping up with the times.’

James Daley, of Fairer Finance, says: ‘I have some sympathy with the insurers, as it can be hard to prove there was a genuine theft and that it wasn’t a fraud.

‘However, I don’t think it is reasonable to rely on the ‘force and violence’ clause if someone has hacked the electrical locking system. It may be hard to prove, but I’d say the burden of proof rests with the insurer.’

He believes insurers should warn their customers that they may not be covered for theft from the vehicle before buying a policy. 

Martyn James, of complaints website Resolver, says: ‘The Ombudsman has a wide range of differing decisions on these cases, which is rather unhelpful. In the absence of proof, it seems to side more often with the insurer.’

Insurers sometimes give drivers a chance to show their vehicle was electronically hacked — such as with evidence of multiple thefts in the area or from the vehicle dealer to show the car has been tampered with. 

Some cars also record when the key fob is used — potentially identifying electronic intrusion.

CompareTheMarket.com says customers should carefully check their policies to see if they have the right level of protection.

Many cars also have keyless ignition, making it possible for criminals to steal the car. But people are less likely to make a fraudulent claim for a stolen car than a stolen laptop, and it’s easier to prove it happened.

It means insurers are less suspicious and more likely to pay up. But keyless technology has been blamed for the record level of car insurance claims — £23 million a day last year.

Siraj Shaikh, an expert in vehicle technology at Coventry University, says: ‘It could be that this form of theft becomes more frequent and insurers respond by charging an extra premium for motorists who choose keys with the keyless entry option. So it’s worth remembering this is a luxury option, rather than an essential.’

To keep your vehicle safe from electronic hackers, experts recommend keeping your key fob at least five metres from your front door and in a metal-lined Faraday pouch or box (available from Halfords and Amazon), which blocks short-wave signals.

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