Police warn of new social media challenge that targets certain models of cars

Owners of certain Hyundai and Kia models are being advised to take special precautions securing their vehicles due to a rash of thefts that has been sweeping cities across the nation.

The Lower Moreland Police Department in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania issued a warning Wednesday that a new TikTok challenge "encourages teens and young adults to break into these cars and steal them." 

Videos shared on social media demonstrated how the ignition systems in mainly 2011-2021 Kias and 2015-2021 Hyundais with physical keys could be easily hacked using a screwdriver, pliers or the end of a USB cable, because the vehicles are not equipped with immobilizers that require the presence of a key fob with a transponder to work.


No local cases have been reported, but the Lower Moreland Police Department suggested that owners of the targeted vehicles might consider using a steering wheel locking device. 

"It’s pretty much just hot-wiring a car with no hot wiring required," said David Young, a Software and Car Analyst.

The problem first came to the nation's attention in Milwaukee last year, where over 5,700 of the brands' cars were stolen through November, according to authorities. Additional cities followed, including Columbus, Ohio, where Kias and Hyundais have accounted for 38% of all thefts so far this year.

Both Kia and Hyundai released statements about the rash of thefts:

"Kia America is aware of the rise in vehicle thefts of a subset of trim levels. All 2022 models and trims have an immobilizer applied either at the beginning of the year or as a running change. All Kia vehicles for sale in the U.S. meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Kia customers with questions regarding their Kia vehicle should contact the Consumer Assistance center directly at 1-800-333-4542."

"Hyundai Motor America is concerned with the rise in local auto thefts. The safety and well-being of our customers and the community is and will remain our top priority. These vehicles meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and engine immobilizers are standard equipment on all new Hyundai vehicles. Hyundai customers who have questions can always contact the Hyundai Consumer Assistance Center at 800-633-5151."

Meanwhile, TikTok says it has already taken down many of the videos showing how thieves are swiping cars.