Chicago area sees 767% increase in Hyundai, Kia thefts; authorities blame TikTok challenge

A car theft challenge going viral on TikTok and other social media apps has led to a 767% increase in Hyundai and Kia vehicle thefts in the Chicago area since the beginning of July compared to last year, according to authorities.

TikTok users are posting videos under the hashtag "Kia Boyz," teaching people how to start Kia or Hyundai vehicles without keys, using the tip of a phone charger or USB cable, prompting juveniles across the country to try and steal those vehicles.

"Vehicle theft is up an astounding 767% due to an emerging TikTok challenge," The Chicago Police Department's 15th District said in an Aug. 24 community advisory. "This challenge is a play by play [sic] for young adults on how to steal both Hyundai and Kia vehicles. These automobile thefts are a crime of opportunity and can affect just about any member of the community."


Between July 1 and mid-August, there were 642 reported Kia and Hyundai vehicle thefts compared to just 74 last year, according to the Cook County Sheriff's Office.

"This is an extremely concerning trend and the public needs to know so they can be vigilant in protecting themselves," Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said in a statement earlier this month. "The Sheriff’s Office will continue to work closely with other law enforcement agencies and engage automakers to reduce dangerous car thefts and carjackings in Cook County."

The trend is occurring in cities across the country. 

Earlier this month, a group of four children, ages 14-17, stole a 2021 Kia Forte from a rental lot in St. Paul, Minnesota, and led police on a highway chase with patrol cars and a helicopter in pursuit. The car crashed as the driver attempted to avoid a stop stick that had been set up in the road, and the group tried to flee on foot before they were apprehended.

Police in St. Petersburg, Florida, said that since mid-July, more than 40% of car thefts have involved Kia or Hyundai vehicles.

Police are encouraging Kia and Hyundai owners to "be alert" and take precautions — like parking in a busy or well-lit area rather than a dark, secluded area — to avoid vehicle theft.

Vehicle owners should also turn off and lock their vehicles while buying groceries or pumping gas, get insurance for their cars and install cameras or alarm systems with motor detection.

The Cook County Sheriff's Office also allows vehicle owners to fill out a consent form online, enabling law enforcement agencies to work with vehicle manufacturers to track cars.

The issue stems from the lack of an immobilizer system in some of the vehicles prior to the 2022 model year, mainly 2011-2021 Kias and 2015-2021 Hyundais equipped with ignitions requiring mechanical keys.

A Hyundai spokesman previously told Fox News Autos the carmaker has expanded a program supporting police departments that are distributing theft-preventive steering wheel locks and has also identified an aftermarket product that addresses the issue.

The Firstech/Compustar security kit "targets the method of entry thieves are using to access these vehicles" and disables the starter if the alarm is triggered.