TikTok challenge spurs rise in thefts of Kia, Hyundai cars

A dangerous problem spreading on TikTok and other social media platforms has car owners and law enforcement departments on alert throughout the nation — difficult youthful teens to steal specific autos off the avenue working with a USB wire.

The goal? Specified would make and models of 2010-2021 Kia and Hyundai automobiles that use a mechanical vital, not a crucial fob and force-button to begin the auto. Investigators explain to CNBC the development began past calendar year and the range of cars remaining stolen is continuing to surge throughout the country. 

In St. Petersburg, Florida, police described far more than a 3rd of all vehicle thefts there given that mid-July are connected to the TikTok obstacle. Los Angeles officials say the viral craze has led to an 85% maximize in motor vehicle theft of Hyundais and Kias when compared with last year.

The story is the same in Chicago, in accordance to Prepare dinner County Sheriff Tom Dart.

“In our jurisdiction by yourself, [thefts of certain models are] up around 800% in the previous thirty day period,” he explained. “We see no end in sight.”

The pattern problems teenagers to steal a motor vehicle off the street by breaking into the automobile, popping off the steering wheel column and hot wiring the car or truck working with a USB cable, similar to the wire applied to cost a cellular phone. 

“The viral mother nature of how this has taken off on social media — it can be accelerated this like we’ve in no way witnessed,” Dart explained. “[The perpetrators are] executing it in 20 to 30 seconds. It literally is as outdated-fashioned as you can consider.”

Dart instructed CNBC the robbers are predominantly youthful teenagers — some, not even old sufficient to lawfully generate. The stolen vehicles are often used for joyrides, or utilized to dedicate other crimes and then deserted on the side of the road, he mentioned.

“We had an 11-calendar year-outdated who was just one of our most prolific stealers … the notion that they can travel is a fantasy,” Dart said. 

The robbers post videos on line of stealing and driving the automobiles, utilizing the hashtag “Kia Boys” — which has additional than 33 million views on TikTok. The social media enterprise said in a statement it “does not condone this behavior which violates our procedures and will be taken out if uncovered on our system.”

Illinois resident Karen Perkins mentioned her 2019 Kia Sorrento was stolen from in front of her condominium on Aug. 6.

“I seemed out the window and realized my vehicle was absent,” Perkins said.

Days afterwards, she was in a rental automobile at a pink mild when she said her lacking Kia drove ideal earlier her.

“I saw a teenage boy sitting in the entrance,” Perkins mentioned. “I drove all over the block … 5 young children actually jumped into my vehicle — which is when I started off to stress — like I’m going to reduce my car or truck permanently.”

Perkins tells CNBC she went on a hunt to observe down her Kia. Hours afterwards, she found it deserted on the side of the highway and called law enforcement. She said the deserted Kia was still left greatly ruined. 

“They crashed the front of my auto … they ruined the bumper,” Perkins explained. “They even wrote on the leading of my ceiling … it claims ‘hot vehicle.'”

Tom Gerszewski, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-centered filmmaker, tracks the viral crime spree on his YouTube channel in “Kia Boys Documentary,” which has already topped 3.7 million views.

“This is what they do for soon after-college leisure,” Gerszewski informed CNBC. “They really don’t genuinely have much of a sympathy for the people today that they are undertaking this to.”

Ken McClain, an lawyer in Missouri, states some of the blame for the stealing spree falls on the automakers — Kia and Hyundai — declaring the organizations built vehicles that are far too uncomplicated to steal.

McClain phone calls the situation a “defect.” His agency has filed course motion lawsuits in 12 states so far: California, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio and Texas. He is also making ready to file in as a lot of as 7 other states.

“We’re receiving dozens of phone calls a working day,” McClain stated. “The company[s] should to be spending for this.”

Kia and Hyundai were not in a position to comment on how lots of motor vehicles are integrated in the make and product a long time and would possibly be at chance.

A Kia spokesperson reported the company is anxious about the boost in thefts and has offered steering cost-free wheel lock units to law enforcement officials in influenced parts.

“It is unlucky that criminals are making use of social media to target automobiles without motor immobilizers in a coordinated hard work,” the spokesperson reported.

“While no auto can be made theft-proof, criminals are trying to get motor vehicles only geared up with a steel essential and ‘turn-to-start’ ignition procedure. The the vast majority of Kia automobiles in the United States are geared up with a crucial fob and “drive-button-to-start” program, earning them more difficult to steal. All 2022 Kia products and trims have an immobilizer utilized both at the beginning of the model yr or as a working improve.”

A Hyundai spokesperson mentioned the business is pursuing a related exertion to distribute steering wheel locks and that the firm will commence promoting a protection package up coming thirty day period.

In accordance to Dart of the Cook dinner County Sherriff’s Business office, the previous-university wheel lock anti-theft products could go a very long way to thwarting the thefts.

“It will make it approximately extremely hard to maneuver the vehicle,” he reported.

— CNBC Specials Web page Peter Ferrarse contributed to this report.