A harmful problem spreading on TikTok and different social media platforms has automobile homeowners and police departments on alert throughout the nation — difficult younger teenagers to steal sure vehicles off the road utilizing a USB wire.
The goal? Sure makes and fashions of 2010-2021 Kia and Hyundai autos that use a mechanical key, not a key fob and push-button to begin the automobile. Investigators inform CNBC the pattern began final yr and the variety of vehicles being stolen is constant to surge throughout the nation.
In St. Petersburg, Florida, police reported greater than a 3rd of all automobile thefts there since mid-July are linked to the TikTok problem. Los Angeles officers say the viral pattern has led to an 85% enhance in automobile theft of Hyundais and Kias in contrast with final yr.
The story is identical in Chicago, in line with Cook dinner County Sheriff Tom Dart.
“In our jurisdiction alone, [thefts of certain models are] up over 800% within the final month,” he stated. “We see no finish in sight.”
The pattern challenges teenagers to steal a automobile off the road by breaking into the automobile, popping off the steering wheel column and sizzling wiring the car utilizing a USB cable, much like the wire used to cost a telephone.
“The viral nature of how this has taken off on social media — it is accelerated this like we have by no means seen,” Dart stated. “[The perpetrators are] doing it in 20 to 30 seconds. It actually is as old school as you possibly can think about.”
Dart advised CNBC the thieves are primarily younger teenagers — some, not even sufficiently old to legally drive. The stolen vehicles are sometimes used for joyrides, or used to commit different crimes after which deserted on the facet of the street, he stated.
“We had an 11-year-old who was considered one of our most prolific stealers … the notion that they will drive is a fantasy,” Dart stated.
The thieves publish movies on-line of stealing and driving the vehicles, utilizing the hashtag “Kia Boys” — which has greater than 33 million views on TikTok. The social media firm stated in an announcement it “doesn’t condone this conduct which violates our insurance policies and might be eliminated if discovered on our platform.”
Illinois resident Karen Perkins stated her 2019 Kia Sorrento was stolen from in entrance of her condo on Aug. 6.
“I regarded out the window and realized my automobile was gone,” Perkins stated.
Days later, she was in a rental automobile at a crimson gentle when she stated her lacking Kia drove proper previous her.
“I noticed a teenage boy sitting within the entrance,” Perkins stated. “I drove across the block … 5 youngsters truly jumped into my automobile — that is once I began to panic — like I will lose my automobile eternally.”
Perkins tells CNBC she went on a hunt to trace down her Kia. Hours later, she discovered it abandoned on the facet of the street and known as police. She stated the deserted Kia was left closely broken.
“They crashed the entrance of my automobile … they broken the bumper,” Perkins stated. “They even wrote on the highest of my ceiling … it says ‘sizzling automobile.'”
Tom Gerszewski, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based filmmaker, tracks the viral crime spree on his YouTube channel in “Kia Boys Documentary,” which has already topped 3.7 million views.
“That is what they do for after-school leisure,” Gerszewski advised CNBC. “They do not actually have a lot of a sympathy for the individuals that they are doing this to.”
Ken McClain, an legal professional in Missouri, says a few of the blame for the stealing spree falls on the automakers — Kia and Hyundai — claiming the businesses constructed vehicles which are too straightforward to steal.
McClain calls the problem a “defect.” His agency has filed class motion lawsuits in 12 states to date: California, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio and Texas. He is additionally getting ready to file in as many as seven different states.
“We’re receiving dozens of calls a day,” McClain stated. “The producer[s] must be paying for this.”
Kia and Hyundai weren’t capable of touch upon what number of autos are included within the make and mannequin years and would probably be in danger.
A Kia spokesperson stated the corporate is worried in regards to the enhance in thefts and has offered steering free wheel lock units to regulation enforcement officers in affected areas.
“It’s unlucky that criminals are utilizing social media to focus on autos with out engine immobilizers in a coordinated effort,” the spokesperson stated.
“Whereas no automobile could be made theft-proof, criminals are looking for autos solely geared up with a metal key and ‘turn-to-start’ ignition system. The vast majority of Kia autos in the US are geared up with a key fob and “push-button-to-start” system, making them harder to steal. All 2022 Kia fashions and trims have an immobilizer utilized both initially of the mannequin yr or as a working change.”
A Hyundai spokesperson stated the corporate is pursuing the same effort to distribute steering wheel locks and that the corporate will start promoting a safety equipment subsequent month.
In accordance with Dart of the Cook dinner County Sherriff’s Workplace, the old-school wheel lock anti-theft units might go an extended approach to thwarting the thefts.
“It makes it practically unimaginable to maneuver the automobile,” he stated.
— CNBC Specials Web page Peter Ferrarse contributed to this report.