Thieves steal a Tesla Model S by intercepting the entry fob signal

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 3,038   +817
Staff member

It appears that one of the men used a tablet to capture the passive entry signal from the key fob within the owner’s house. The other seems to have been using a smartphone as a relay device, but it’s hard to tell.

After walking around the house with the tablet a bit, the car finally unlocks and the thief with the smartphone gains entry. The other man attempted several times to disconnect the car from the charger but failed. His partner tried and failed as well. It seemed to take them longer to figure out disconnect the charger than it took to gain entry to the vehicle.

Once unhooked the two criminals disabled the car’s Remote Access system, which allows the owner or Tesla to track the vehicle’s location. They then drove off into the night. Tesla says that even if Remote Access is turned off, they can turn it back on and track the car. However, they could not get a signal meaning the thieves probably removed the SIM.

The theft was preventable. First of all, the Kennedy admits in the comments that he should have turned off passive entry since he was parking it outside. A passive entry system sends out a signal from the fob so that when you approach the car, the doors automatically unlock. The thief with the tablet stole this signal.

He also could have stored the fob in a “Faraday pouch,” which would have prevented the signal from escaping and being intercepted.

Additionally, Teslas have a feature called “PIN to Drive.” This security measure requires the driver to enter a pin to start the car. Had Kennedy employed any of these measures, he might still have his car.

He posted the video not only in the hopes that someone would recognize the individuals committing the crime but also as a cautionary lesson for other Tesla owners.

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Posts: 1,199   +743
This is a proven way to gain entry to any vehicle that allows proximity/passive entry. In most cases, the thieves use 2 relay devices which cost a few hundred dollars each. One is put on a stick and waved around outside the bedroom window to capture the signal from the keys. It then relays the signal to the other one which is put near the car door. In some cars it can also be used to start the engine.
The simplest solution is to put the keys in a box that can block the signal, much like the wallets you can get that block the RFID that is used to swipe bank cards.

Uncle Al

Posts: 8,044   +6,810
Even showing up at restaurant locations where the thieves simply sit in their car and scope out the patron's as they walk in .... some even bold enough to steal the car while patrons are eating lunch!


Posts: 324   +500
Pretty sure they will be caught as the video and faces are very clear and a duo is far more easy to be recognised by people in the know.
Anyway, the key lesson (pun intended) here is to have an extra layer of security like the PIN in your car. Easily preventable matter now became a headache with lots of paperwork, claims and reports.

Darth Shiv

Posts: 2,187   +769
Proximity entry is just beyond stupid. There should always be a requirement to press a button. AND that button shouldn't be easy to accidentally press in your pocket.


Posts: 1,871   +1,092
Or, Tesla could employ a proper encryption on their fobs and cars to make any skimmed signals worthless in the first place. I would expect this to already be the case, with the prices they charge.