Kia and Hyundai have responded to a spate of car thefts believed to be the result of a TikTok trend that sees thieves using a USB cord to hotwire cars.
TikTok is known for having a large 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.
A trend that appears to have been on TikTok since last year sees thieves targeting certain models of 2010-2021 Hyundai and Kia cars that use a mechanical key rather than 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 of it going viral on TikTok, whether it’s footage of the theft itself or Kia owners showing the aftermath of their vehicle being broken into in.
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] do it in 20 to 30 seconds. It’s literally as old-fashioned as you can imagine.”
A Kia spokesperson is said to have said it is concerned about the thefts and has provided free steering wheel locking devices to police in the affected areas. “It is unfortunate that criminals are using social media to target vehicles without immobilizers in a concerted effort,” they said.
“Although no car can be made theft-proof, criminals look for vehicles equipped only 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-to-start’- system, making them more difficult to steal. All 2022 Kia models and trims have an immobilizer applied either at the start of the model year or as an ongoing change.”
A Hyundai spokesperson said it will start selling a security kit from next month, and is continuing an effort to distribute steering wheel locks as well.