Teens have been linked to more auto thefts in the last few years after learning how to steal vehicles on social media.
- There were more than 936,000 vehicle thefts in 2021, a 27% increase since 2019, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
- Most of the stolen vehicles are late-model Kias and Hyundais, as the vehicles don’t have engine immobilizers, making them easy to steal without a key.
- Trends began on social media that showed exactly how to steal these vehicles with no keys leading to a significant surge of teens taking the cars.
Why it’s news
Social media can be both good and harmful, but one of the latest harmful trends spreading across the platforms—grand theft auto.
U.S. cities faced a large rise in car theft during the pandemic as people were at home and people were leaving their cars in the driveways instead of in a secure parking garage, making it easier for thieves.
The surge continued after the pandemic as thousands of videos were uploaded online, creating a “TikTok challenge” for teens to take the two Korean-branded cars. The challenges made teen theft numbers skyrocket.
“All you had to do was put something on TikTok, how to steal these cars, and they started getting stolen left and right,” says Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
The amount of Kias and Hyundais being stolen was so large that numerous cities filed lawsuits against the carmakers, and at least one state’s attorney general opened an investigation.
While trying to curtail the presence of these videos on social media, many urge police to take more drastic action against the car thieves. Meanwhile, police are encouraging anyone with a newer model Kia or Hyundai to use a steering wheel lock, do not leave valuables in the vehicle, keep doors locked, and try to park in well-lighted areas to avoid thieves.
The two companies have recently issued statements saying that the problem has been fixed, and both companies offered free software upgrades for vulnerable cars, which the federal government estimates are around 4.5 million Kias and 3.8 million Hyundais.
The two brands also sent large amounts of steering wheel locks to police departments nationwide to be given to owners who drive at-risk models for free. They also said they are constantly monitoring social media for new theft-related videos and reporting them to the platform to be removed.