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I am not proud of it, but I had a senior moment this week and I was convinced that I had been a victim of a car jamming robbery. Every afternoon before I leave work, I pack my laptop in my bag, clean my desk and head home. Previously in life, when I was developing and supporting fintech software systems, I had to be ‘on standby’ at all hours of day and night should there be a major bug or system crash which required immediate attention. The deep-rooted scar tissue from those days means that I am still very much conditioned to take my laptop home with me every afternoon, even though the Start My Car ecosystem probably exceeds 99.999% uptime.
So, you can imagine my alarm when I got home, during a bout of loadshedding no less, and discovered my laptop was not in my bag. I desperately tried to retrace my steps. I left work as usual a touch before 5. Some BMW driver cut me off on the Atlas Road onramp. A Turkish Cargo Airbus A330 was landing at OR Tambo as I passed the airport. I remember this bit well because I was so busy watching it that I veered dangerously to the left and was rightfully hooted at and sworn at by the aggrieved driver in the middle lane.
I then off-ramped at Edenvale Road and dashed into Meadowdale Mall to get some groceries at Checkers Hyper. Yeah, that was definitely where it happened. The mall was quiet when I arrived, and the parking lot mostly empty. I parked far from the entrance to avoid the car guard who would no doubt demand a tip if I parked in his ‘row’. I got my groceries and left, about 30 minutes later. I dumped them all on the passenger seat and went home.
Once home, I unpacked my shopping, put the frozen perishables in the Freezer and then went and retrieved my work bag from the boot, only to discover to my shock and horror that my bag was partially unzipped and the laptop was gone. A few desperate minutes followed. In my heart of hearts I knew that the maligned car guard was behind this. He no doubt foresaw that a tip would not be forthcoming, and arranged for his friends and accomplices to teach me a lesson.
The problem was, I couldn’t find any signs of forced entry to my vehicle. I checked every door lock and rubber seal by torchlight (as we were being loadshed) and all seemed in order. I remember locking my car. So the only method which made sense was that I had been car jammed. Car jamming, or more accurately remote jamming It is the practice where criminals use a signal-jamming device to prevent car central locking and alarm systems from being activated, leaving a vehicle vulnerable to theft and vandalism.
Remote jamming is one of the most favoured methods that thieves use to steal cars and/or valuable items left in the car. It’s pretty simple. The thieves sit and wait in a nearby vehicle. As you leave your vehicle and press your remote central locking, they press on their signal jamming device or even a gate remote ( as most vehicle and gate remotes operate on the same frequency). Their signal effectively cancels out your signal, so that your car never actually locks, even though the driver will be under the impression they’ve locked their vehicle.
Now, while you are busy buying maximising your Xtra Savings and buying a years’ worth of Twinsaver 2-ply (hard to resist at R79.99 for a 18-pasck), all the thieves have to do is park next to or near your car. Then, they inconspicuously sidle up to your vehicle, open a door or the boot as if it was their own car, help themselves to whatever is inside, close you vehicle again and make off with the loot. There is no baseball bat or broken window involved. A passerby would not even notice the crime in progress. The victim may not even realise he has been robbed until much later.
Luckily, it turns out I left my laptop at work and all my worrying was for nothing. But the whole incident highlighted for me how easily one can be remote-jammed. So, I have compiled a list of ideas that one can use to prevent being jammed:
As with most crimes, awareness is key. For any South African, becoming a victim of remote jamming is a very real threat. Always be aware of your surroundings and be on the lookout for suspicious individuals lingering around the parking area.
Try to park as close to the entrance of the shopping centre as possible as there is always a lot of people and movement in this area, or in the full view of a camera. Having said that, criminals are becoming increasingly brazen, so be aware of activity around you.
When leaving your vehicle, make sure it is properly locked. Don’t just press your vehicle alarm and walk away. Always take a moment to make sure your vehicle is locked by testing to see if you can open your vehicle door after activating the alarm. If your door opens, get in and drive away. Chances are that the criminals are watching you from nearby.
Lastly, be aware that many insurers won’t cover theft due to remote-jamming because there are no signs of forced entry to the vehicle. As a policy holder, you should ask your broker or check that you are adequately covered for such incidents, especially since it is not only traumatic to fall victim to vehicle jamming, but it could also be very costly if not insured.
Cheers & Stay safe
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