LAPEL, Ind. (WXIN) – A woman living in Lapel, Indiana, believes she recently fell victim to the attempted theft of her Kia automobile — and she blames TikTok with inspiring the would-be thieves.
Alissa Smart’s niece woke her up in the middle of the night on July 16 to inform her that two people had broken into her Kia and attempted to start the engine by using a USB cable. This method, which allegedly allows a driver to bypass a chip or a key when starting certain Kia models, has been demonstrated on social media, Nexstar’s WXIN reported.
It’s also a known issue that police across the country have been warning Kia and Hyundai owners about.
“I was so angry when my niece woke me up to tell me,” said Smart. “I was scared, anxious and confused on how someone could see two car seats and a diaper bag and still commit such a monstrous act.”
Smart doesn’t know who the perpetrators are, but she suspects local teenagers.
“I have no idea — I’m leaning toward a teenager based on the fact they stole bicycles along the way and then Mountain Dew from my parents’ garage and ditched it all up the road to come back and try to steal my Kia Soul,” said Smart.
“The keys were in one of my parents’ vehicles on the property. If they wanted to steal a car, it would’ve been much easier to take that truck. Instead they busted out my window and tried to hotwire my Kia Soul before my niece walked outside and they took off running on foot.”
The damage to Smart’s car is estimated to cost more than she can afford. A window replacement alone will cost her $400.
“I can’t afford to fix my vehicle, which leaves me and my two children without our only mode of transportation,” said Smart. “Not to mention they stole my wallet that included my ID and my children’s medical cards with their full names and date of births. I feel violated and scared.”
Smart has filed a report with Lapel Police. She claims the police haven’t seen any similar cases.
Other departments across the country, however, have acknowledged similar break-ins and thefts, citing the lack of an immobilization device on certain Kia and Hyundai models. In Norfolk, Virginia, police have observed a 35% increase in Kia and Hyundai thefts in the first half of July alone, WAVY reported. And police in other municipalities, like Beloit, Wisconsin, and Kentwood, Michigan, are urging Kia and Hyundai owners to take extra precautions.
The problem, according to authorities, concerns a design flaw which allows a driver to start the cars after gaining access to the steering column. Thieves are exploiting this flaw, and some are posting their illegal antics online, Sgt. Eric Brunner of the Kent County Sheriff’s Department in Michigan told Nexstar’s WOOD.
Rick Ricart, of Ricart Automotive in Ohio, told WCMH that no less than 30 Kia and Hyundai cars had been towed to his shop for service during one week in June, all with damage to the steering columns.
Ricart told the station that he, too, fell victim to the theft of several Kias and Hyundais back in February, before he became aware that certain YouTube and TikTok users were describing the security flaw online. Now, he says, he no longer leaves Kia or Hyundai models on the lot at night.
Smart, the break-in victim in Indiana, also told WXIN she doesn’t think TikTok should allow the type of content that may possibly result in further break-ins.
“This trend absolutely makes me feel disgusted,” she said. “It’s really beyond me that people think it’s OK to post criminal acts, let alone participate in them after seeing them online.”