Kia and Hyundai have responded to a spate of car thefts believed to be a result of a TikTok trend that sees thieves using a USB cord to hotwire cars.
TikTok is known for having a huge number of viral trends, and while many of them are completely harmless, some of them have generated a significant amount of criticism for being dangerous, or even illegal.
One trend that appears to have been around on TikTok since last year, sees thieves targeting certain models of 2010-2021 Hyundai and Kia cars which use a mechanical key and not a key fob and push-button to start the vehicle.
The ‘trend’ is often referred to as the ‘Kia Boys’ trend, and there have been a number of videos about it going viral on TikTok, whether that’s footage of the theft itself, or Kia owners showing the aftermath of their vehicle being broken into.
Speaking to CNBC, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said that, “in our jurisdiction alone, [thefts of certain models are] up over 800% in the last month. We see no end in sight.”
He added: “The viral nature of how this has taken off on social media — it’s accelerated this like we’ve never seen,” Dart said. ”[The perpetrators are] doing it in 20 to 30 seconds. It literally is as old-fashioned as you can imagine.”
A spokesperson for Kia reportedly said that they are concerned about the thefts, and that they’ve provided free steering wheel lock devices to law enforcement in affected areas. “It is unfortunate that criminals are using social media to target vehicles without engine immobilizers in a coordinated effort,” they said.
“While no car can be made theft-proof, criminals are seeking vehicles solely equipped with a steel key and ‘turn-to-start’ ignition system. The majority of Kia vehicles in the United States are equipped with a key fob and “push-button-to-start” system, making them more difficult to steal. All 2022 Kia models and trims have an immobilizer applied either at the beginning of the model year or as a running change.”
A spokesperson for Hyundai said that they will begin selling a security kit from next month, and that they are pursuing an effort to distribute steering wheel locks also.