TikTok trends and social media notoriety could be the driving force in an increase in car theft across Australia, according to leading crime experts.
Data from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) shows a 23% increase in vehicle theft in the two years leading up to June 2023,1 while national statistics show motor vehicle theft was up 11% in 2022 across the country.2
According to BOCSAR Executive Director Jackie Fitzgerald, TikTok trends, and a quest among young people for social media ‘likes’, could be factors behind the concerning statistics.
“It seems like with all social media, there’s some kudos amongst your friends,” Fitzgerald told the ABC.3 “People are looking for likes – some of these videos have received a lot of attention.”
Criminals share disturbing theft tips on social media
In one disturbing trend, dubbed the Kia Challenge, instructional videos on social media show viewers how to bypass a vehicle’s security.4
The viral videos, posted to TikTok and other social media platforms, teach people how to use USB cables to start older model Kia and Hyundai cars without engine immobilisers. It started when a TikTok user posted a video, which has since been removed from the platform, that showed them starting up a Kia using only a USB cable.5
But unlike some social media-driven trends that seemingly disappear just as police get a handle on them, these videos seem to be gaining traction with teens looking for ways to go viral by filming themselves stealing cars or evading police. A recent BOCSAR report suggested there was anecdotal evidence of hashtags promoting vehicle theft.6
Thieves are a risk to themselves and others
Former Deputy Commissioner of Regional Operations for Victoria Police, Rick Nugent, acknowledged the role social media plays in rising crime statistics – specifically offenders posting videos of themselves speeding in stolen cars.
“It’s quite disturbing, at those speeds, with people who have limited experience driving on the roads,” he told The Guardian in June 2023.7 “There is a huge risk that they’re going to end up in a collision that harms others and harms themselves.”
How to help protect your car
Fortunately, there are ways you can help protect your car from being a target. When parking at home, police recommend that you always lock your car and close all the windows, including the sunroof.8
A vehicle security information sheet produced by Queensland Police includes tips to reduce the risk of having your car stolen or broken into. Some of these include:8
- Park your vehicle in well-lit and highly visible areas whenever possible.
- Wherever possible, use off street parking or secured parking.
- When parking in a garage, ensure both the garage and vehicle are locked and the garage door remotes are secured.
- Avoid marking your keys with your personal or vehicle details such as name, phone number or vehicle registration.
- Consider installing a car alarm or steering wheel lock to help protect your vehicle.
- Use lockable devices to help keep your vehicle secure including lockable fuel caps, wheel nuts, spare tyre covers and roof racks.
- Consider installing a remote engine immobiliser which meets Australian standards.
- Secure your registration plates with anti-theft screws.
- Consider installing a GPS tracker to your vehicle.8
This may also be a good time to check that your car insurance is up to date, with adequate coverage for your personal circumstances in the event of theft. Remember, it’s possible that a policy won’t cover the theft of your vehicle if appropriate security measures weren’t taken (such as leaving keys in the car or leaving it unlocked).9
If theft is a concern, you may want to look at third party fire & theft or comprehensive car insurance policies. For insurance that’s a bit more you-shaped, consider starting a quote with Youi today.
Article by guest writer Chelsea Spresser
1 Source: NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research – Crime statistics
2 Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics – Motor vehicle theft up 11 per cent in 2022, June 2023
3 Source: ABC News – TikTok trend a driving factor for increase in car thefts in regional NSW, BOCSAR statistician says, June 2023
4 Source: nine.com.au – Alarming new TikTok challenge targets popular car model, 2022
5 Source: news.com.au – Dangerous new TikTok trend prompts warnings about this car brand, July 2022
6 Source: NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research – The increase in motor vehicle theft in NSW up to March 2023, June 2023
7 Source: The Guardian – Police and crime researchers fear social media’s effect on crime in NSW and Victoria, June 2023
8 Source: Queensland Police – Vehicle security
9 Source: Canstar – What voids car insurance? 11 things to consider, August 2023