Security footage captured in Winnipeg showed thieves breaking into cars using the $5 device, which sends an electromagnetic pulse into a car door, confusing the car’s computer system into unlocking the door.
The company that manufactures the device says more than a dozen have been shipped to Canada in the last three months.
The Automobile Protection Association says automobile manufacturers should be doing something to protect owners from such thefts.
“At this point, if a car maker knows that for [under] $50 bucks their car can be opened by anybody with no sign, I suppose they should be designing it a little more resistant to intrusion,” said APA spokesman George Iny.
But Winnipeg police said concerns about the device may be overblown.
“People shouldn’t panic over the fact these devices exist. They’re certainly not common at all,” said Const. Robert Carver.
He said police are aware of only once incident in the city where the device was used.
Winnipegger Rick Hanzel was the person who reported that incident. His car was broken into and a surveillance camera he installed caught it all on tape.
He said people could be unaware that a similar thing has happened to them because thieves who use the device leave no trace.
“Now that we have video proof, I think they’re looking at it a little differently,” he said.
Installing after-market alarm a possible fix
The owner of Winnipeg's Absolute Auto Guard says vehicle owners can protect themselves by installing after-market alarm systems.
“With an after-market alarm, they pretty much all come with a shock sensor, so even if you disable a door opening trigger, the shock sensor should go off,” said Bernie Atchison. “Somebody getting in the car would basically get an alarm alert because there is a vibration in it.”
He said the device works on a number of newer, foreign cars, but certain trucks that do not have connected doors may not be as easy to get into with the device.