Hagerstown police say spike in vehicle thefts likely connected to TikTok challenge

Authorities in Hagerstown say a recent spike in vehicle thefts is likely related to a TikTok challenge that shows viewers how to hot-wire Kia and Hyundai cars with a USB cord and a screwdriver.

According to the Hagerstown Police Department, 12 incidents of vehicle theft or damage have been reported so far in May.

Officials say the incidents have occurred largely during the overnight hours. In response, patrols in the Hagerstown area have increased.

The TikTok social media challenge put a spotlight on Kia and Hyundai’s lack of an immobilizer that resulted in thefts and crashes across the country.

The automobile companies rolled out free software updates are for millions of vehicles that are missing a key anti-theft device.

The software being released updates the theft alarm software logic to extend the length of the alarm sound from 30 seconds to one minute and requires the key to be in the ignition switch to turn the vehicle on.

About 3.8 million Hyundais and 4.5 million Kias are eligible for the software update, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said earlier this year.

Hyundai says all models produced after Nov. 1, 2021 have immobilizers as standard equipment. Hyundai will also provide window stickers to vehicle owners that alert would-be thieves that the vehicle has anti-theft protection.

Vehicle owners can contact Hyundai at 800-633-5151 and Kia at 800-333-4542 for information on the software update.