A warning about high-tech thieves trying to steal your car

Experts are sounding the alarm about a device that can hack your car and have crooks driving away in seconds.

It's something no car owner wants to see - thieves in your driveway - trying to break into your car. But look closer - these criminals aren't smashing windows or picking locks. Turns out, they're using so-called "relay attack" devices to open your car and even drive away.

No key fob, not hot-wiring - just a free ride.

“We work with law enforcement very closely, and they think a lot of these are out there,” said Roger Morris, Chief Communications Officer of the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Morris says these devices may explain an uptick in car thefts, which have continued to rev up every year since 2014.

“I get calls virtually every day about this device,” Morris said.

Morris' team bought a device from a company in Europe and showed us how it works. It's got two parts. The first takes the signal from your key fob.

“When you're exiting the car, I can grab that signal with this device. I relay it to this device, to another person standing next to the car, so he pulls on the handle, and this thing acts just like the fob,” Morris said. “For a thief, this is an easy entry into a vehicle of choice.”

Morris says the technology only works on cars with keyless entry, but the manufacturer of the device says it'll work on any make or model of keyless cars.

And the big problem with this kind of theft is how hard it is to track.

“Unfortunately it's very difficult to prove that your car was taken by one of these things. Unless you've got a security camera pointed in your driveway,” Morris said.

So - how can you protect yourself from thieves from driving off with your wheels?

“The best thing you can do is park your car in a garage. You know, keep it closed up or be aware of where you're parking and your surroundings,” Morris said.

Morris said there's not much you can do to keep your fob from getting hacked, but manufacturers are aware and working on fixing vulnerabilities.

Keep in mind - as technology continues to evolve - so will criminals who want to steal from you.

“They're still out there, and they're not going to give up easily,” Morris said.

The specific device used by the NICB is not sold to the public.

The concern is that hackers are developing their own devices - or buying them elsewhere - with the sole purpose of taking data off other devices.