This trend involves the hotwiring of a Kia or Hyundai, and people are able to accomplish this with a mere cellphone charger.
Authorities note that vehicles “vulnerable to the technique being used by thieves” specifically include 2011-21 Kia models and 2015-21 Hyundai models that lack a push-to-start button, according to KETV Omaha.
“They’re finding a way to bypass the ignition of the car through the steering column, and it’s not sophisticated. It’s a mechanical hack,” Cody Lance, a detective with the St. Petersburg Police Department, said, according to FOX 13.
“It’s quite alarming. Our numbers have gone up significantly, and it’s got our attention,” Lance continued. “They’re looking for three things: they’re looking for a ride, they’re looking for money and they’re looking for a gun. They get those three things, eventually get arrested and then the cycle continues all over again.”
Harmon Handy is one person who was directly impacted by this trend, as his Kia Sorrento was stolen earlier this month and left with $7,500 in damage.
“[I] thought you needed that key fob to start it and apparently you don’t,” Handy told the outlet. “The most frustrating part about it is just how pointless it is, that the only reason to do it is just to grab the car and trash it.”
According to the Tampa Bay Times, this trend began in Milwaukee and eventually spread to other parts of the nation.
A group known as the “Kia Boys” is believed to have popularized the trend of hotwiring Kias and Hyundais as the squad’s antics started making rounds on YouTube this past spring.
“They get, you know, street cred, and a little bit of attention,” Cody Lance noted, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
As for what people can do about the “Kia Challenge,” Lance urges people to take caution and lock their car doors.
“They look for cars that are unlocked,” he said. “It’s just much easier — it’s just simply a matter of convenience.”