Thieves Are Using These Scanners to Find Hidden Valuables in Your Car

Car Theft Burglar Credit: Gina Buliga / Shutterstock
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Thieves are using increasingly sophisticated techniques to go after your valuables. Now, that includes using Bluetooth scanners to scope out the gadgets hidden in your vehicle.

A recent rise in laptop and notebook thefts from cars in the Bay Area has led police and victims to wonder if vehicle burglars are using some type of device to figure out which vehicles have expensive electronics within them, according to a recent WIRED piece.

As it turns out, they most likely are.

Most consumer devices, like smartphones or notebooks, send out a Bluetooth signal so that other devices can quickly identify and pair with them. For notebooks, that’s true even if the lid is closed.

Jake Williams, the founder of Rendition Infosec, says that he has “little doubt that some thieves are using Bluetooth scanners to target devices.” Those types of scanners are also fairly easy to use, meaning that they don’t require much technical knowledge.

In many cases, thieves may not even need to buy third-party gadgets. There are plenty of Bluetooth scanner apps that use a device’s onboard Bluetooth components to find other devices nearby. You can download these type software apps onto your own iPhone or Android right now.

While these apps are marketed as lost device finders, they can also provide a wealth of details to thieves. That can include a device’s type, current pairing options, and their location within a few meters.

Still, some people have called the use of Bluetooth scanners for theft a myth — after all, many thieves probably can just watch someone put a laptop bag in their car.

But recently, some law enforcement agencies in the San Francisco area have confirmed that they’ve noticed criminals and thieves actively using Bluetooth scanning technology. Officers of the Walnut Creek Police Department in California even warned local residents of similar tactics in 2018.

What Should I Do?

Because of that, you may want to take steps to protect any valuables stored in your own car. If you must leave a tablet or notebook in your car, make sure to enable Airplane Mode or power them off entirely.

Beyond that, the most effective and easiest way to protect your stuff is to simply avoid keeping your valuable electronic devices unattended in your vehicle.

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