Relay and Reprogramming - the thieves appear to have the upper hand - and your vehicle in it

By Staff

August 17th, 2021



In 2021, the Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) reported a significant increase in both relay and re-programming thefts of high-end vehicles with keyless entry and push-start technology.

Since January 2021, there have been a total of 52 vehicles stolen from Milton and Halton Hills (Oakville and Burlington will get targeted soon enough) that have been attributed to the use of relay or reprogramming technology.

In the majority of these thefts, the vehicles are being stolen from residents’ driveways during the overnight hours, with most thefts typically taking less than one minute.

Stunning just ho much technology the thieves have access to – they get it online, pay a hefty price and see that price as a good investment.

What is a relay theft?
Thieves will use technology called a “relay device” to find a key fob signal from inside a residence. The thieves do not need to enter the residence in order to find the signal.

The signal is then amplified which allows the thieves to unlock, start and steal the vehicle. The vehicle owner discovers their vehicle has been stolen, even though they are in possession of their key fob.

What is a reprogramming theft?
Thieves will first gain entry to the vehicle by mechanical means (breaking in by using a tool). They will then access the vehicle’s diagnostic port and reprogram a blank key fob which allows them to start and steal the vehicle.

The HRPS is applying significant resources to investigate these occurrences. In spite of recent arrests, it is important that the community be aware of this trend and takes preventative steps to ensure their property remains secure from theft.

Special attention should be given by those members of the community who own the specific vehicles described here as they are most commonly being targeted for theft.

These carts once stolen leave the country in days – look for them in the war torn countries of the Middle East. The terrorists love the SUV’s and the pickup trucks.

What types of vehicles are being targeted?
While many different makes and models of high-end vehicles are being targeted, over 55% of these thefts involve Lexus RX350, Toyota SUV and Honda CR-V models.

What can residents do to protect themselves from these types of thefts?
There are measures that residents can take to mitigate the risk of having their vehicle(s) stolen:

• Park your vehicle in a locked and secured garage
• Install an on-board diagnostic blocker
• Install a steering wheel lock device
• Combine the above measures with an aftermarket GPS tracking device
• Place vehicle key fob inside a radio frequency shielding bag when not in use
• Lock your vehicle at all times
• Equip your vehicle with an alarm
• Install home security cameras that capture the exterior of your residence, including the driveway
• Take steps to conceal the Vehicle Identification Number (V.I.N.)

Additional tips and information, including an educational video, can be found on our website:

Crime prevention is a shared responsibility. Call 911 if you witness a crime in progress. Call 905-825-4777 if you see suspicious vehicles or persons in your neighbourhood.

Tips can also be submitted anonymously to Crime Stoppers. “See something? Hear something? Know something? Contact Crime Stoppers” at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) or through the web at

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1 comment to Relay and Reprogramming – the thieves appear to have the upper hand – and your vehicle in it

  • Patti Gaetan

    If you live in a single family dwelling, never leave your fob by the front door, keep it at your bedside when going to bed and you can push the alarm if you suspect someone is trying to break into your car or home. While shopping in a mall, lock your vehicle by using the locking button on the door, not your fob , which can be copied .