SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- The Scotch Plains police department is warning the public about how thieves are increasingly using technology to steal motor vehicle thefts in the township.

The bad guys have figured out a way to use an app that finds key fobs that are left inside vehicles. Then, the criminals test the doors of the cars to see if they are unlocked. If the keys are inside and the doors are open, thieves have found an easy target.

"Over the past few weeks we have been experiencing vehicle thefts in town. Several vehicles were left unlocked with the key fobs left inside, making the theft an easy one," said Scotch Plains police chief Ted Conley. "I suggest that residents remain vigilant in locking and securing their homes and vehicles."

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The chief suggests keeping the fob inside homes a safe distance away from their car if it is parked in the driveway and not secured. Leaving the key near a front door that is unlocked makes it easy for a thief to come in, quickly grab the key fob, and then make off with your car. 

"The fob gives off a signal. That's how you can open the door or even start your car with a fob. The apps that thieves are using can read the signal," Conley explained in an interview with TAPintoSPF. "If the fob is left in an open car or near an unlocked front door, it's an easy target."

The National Insurance Crime Bureau offers the following tips to prevent auto theft:

  1. Use Common Sense: Lock your doors and remove your keys from the ignition. Park in well-lit areas.
  2. Invest in a tracking system: A tracking system emits a signal to the police or monitoring service when the vehicle is reported stolen. If the vehicle is moved, the system will alert the owner and the vehicle can be tracked by computer.

The Scotch Plains police also have taken numerous reports of phone scams that have resulted in an alarming amount of money stolen. A current scheme is one in which a victim receives a call stating a family member has been arrested in another state or another country and needs money to post bail. The scammers walk victims through steps to purchase and then provide the caller/scammer with the routing numbers of pre-paid credit cards that the victims think will help post bail.

There are variations to this scam as sometimes the caller claims to be from the IRS. 

"Sometimes people really do owe money to the IRS, and they get taken," Conley said. "Agencies do not operate in these fashions. Any calls to our residents of this nature should immediately be reported to police."