CCTV video shows suspects using electronic method to steal cars in northeast Toronto

A video released by Toronto police appears to show two suspects using a "relay attack" to disable a car's security system, then steal it.

Toronto police are warning vehicle owners in the city’s northeast there’s been a rise in car thefts in the area — and that the suspects appear to be taking advantage of keyless remote technology.

Police said the suspects are targetting newer vehicles that use keyless FOBs and are usually stolen from driveways in the middle of the night.

“It is believed that thieves stand near the front door of a house, holding a device that captures the signal emitted from the keyless FOB,” police said on Tuesday. “This device is a radio frequency amplifier that will increase the signal range of the keyless FOB.”

Investigators said a second person will be standing next to the target vehicle to receive the signal from the device.  At this point, they are able to unlock and start the car.

CCTV video released by police on Tuesday shows this type of electronic car theft in action. In the video, two suspects are seen approaching a home. One of the suspects stands on the front porch of the home and appears to pull out a long piece of cable– the person then holds the cable in the air. The second suspect is seen standing next to what appears to be a Lexus SUV. A little over two seconds later, the vehicle’s tail lights appear to flash — indicating that the security system on the car has been disabled.  One of the suspects then enters the vehicle and drives off into the night.

The Canadian Automobile Association calls this type of attack a “man in the middle” or “relay attack.” They say it’s a “growing scourge” in Canada, but they, along with Toronto police, say there are ways to make sure you don’t wake up one morning to find your vehicle missing from the driveway.

  • Park your car in a garage
  • Consider using a physical deterrent like a steering wheel bar or “club”
  • Consider purchasing a secondary vehicle security system that includes vehicle tracking
  • Don’t leave your keys out in the open — such as on a kitchen table or counter. Consider buying a container or bag that is designed to block radio signals (a “Faraday” bag).


The CAA adds that a metal container can work, but don’t hide FOBs in appliances made of metal.

“Remember, you should never place key FOBs in a freezer or microwave oven,” the CAA says. “These methods may damage the FOBs, which can cost hundreds of dollars to replace and program.”

Police said they continue to investigate these incidents. Anyone with information is asked by police to contact them directly. Tips can also be left anonymously with Crime Stoppers.



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