Seattle police warn latest surge in Kia auto thefts linked to TikTok

·2 min read

Seattle police are warning that a recent spike in thefts of Kia cars may be related to a tutorial on social media.

In July, police investigated reports of 36 stolen Kias, compared to just five in July 2021. Kia models targeted so far are: Optima, Soul, Sorrento, Forte and Sportage manufactured between 2014 and 2021.

Hyundai cars can fall victim to the so-called “Kia Challenge” too. According to the Puget Sound Auto Task Force, any Hyundai make or model from 2015 onward that requires a key for the ignition is also vulnerable.

Detectives believe the thieves may be using a method they learned online, using a USB drive or cable and other tools in place of a key to start a vehicle.

At the beginning of August, police arrested two teens after a report that they were driving a stolen Kia in northwest Capitol Hill and were trying to steal a second Kia.

When officers arrived at the scene, the teens sped away and crashed into a fence in the 900 block of East Newton Street.

Officers chased the three occupants and caught two of them – a 17-year-old boy carrying a loaded ghost gun and a 16-year-old boy.

They were arrested for unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of a stolen vehicle.

“Through our investigation we learned that that suspect had learned how to steal Kias from a TikTok video,” said SPD Detective Valerie Carson.

On July 21, officers found a stolen Kia in South Seattle with evidence linking the car to the same 16-year-old from the Capitol Hill incident.

“I have heard this is happening nationwide,” said Detective Carson. “If this is being influenced by TikTok, which we think that it is, those videos are obviously accessible everywhere.”

Drivers in other major metropolitan cities such as Dallas, Chicago and Portland have reported thefts linked to the viral challenge as well.

Police suggest Kia owners park in well-lit or secure areas when possible. Use steering wheel locks and aftermarket ignition kill-switch systems as well.

The Puget Sound Auto Theft Task Force also recommends installing a hidden GPS, hidden kill switch or a steering wheel locking mechanism if your car fits the description.