AG James Warns NYkers About Thieves Targeting Vehicles And Consumer Tips

April 27, 2023

New York Attorney General Letitia James today issued a consumer alert to warn New Yorkers about recent thefts targeting vehicles made by Hyundai and Kia and provided critical tips to protect consumers.

Attorney General James also urged Hyundai and Kia to immediately fix safety flaws, such as faulty ignition switches and a lack of engine immobilizers, that have made their vehicles manufactured between 2011 and 2022 vulnerable to thefts. Attorney General James also called on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to recall these unsafe vehicles. Today’s alert comes in light of a surge in Hyundai and Kia car thefts caused by a dangerous viral video trend on the social media platform TikTok, where people have uploaded videos showing how to hotwire these cars and challenging others to steal them.

“When we learn about scams and design flaws that harm New York, consumers and car owners, it is important that we slam the brakes on these problems,” said Attorney General James. “Manufacturers have a responsibility to address safety flaws in their vehicles, which is why I am calling on Hyundai and Kia to immediately install anti-theft devices and other safety measures to better protect New York car owners and lessees. I urge all New Yorkers, especially those with impacted Hyundai and Kia vehicles, to remain vigilant and follow our important tips to help keep themselves safe.”

Kia and Hyundai vehicles manufactured between 2011 and 2022 are vulnerable to theft because their ignition switches can be easily bypassed and they lack engine immobilizers, which has allowed thieves to hotwire the vehicles within minutes. The exploitation of these vulnerabilities were made public through TikTok videos of people showing how to steal Hyundai and Kia cars using simple tools like a USB cable and screwdriver. As these vulnerabilities spread virally through challenge videos on the internet, thefts of Hyundai and Kia vehicles has surged, creating significant public safety hazards and property loss. For instance, in Rochester, nearly 75 percent of cars stolen this year were manufactured by Hyundai and Kia. Similarly, in New York City, the New York City Police Department has indicated alarming concerns, in which there were more than 100 Hyundai and Kia car thefts in the month of December alone. Thefts of Hyundai and Kia vehicles have led to millions of dollars in lost and damaged property and have diverted emergency and police resources from other pressing issues.

These thefts also pose a direct risk to public safety: at least four deaths and numerous injuries have resulted from car accidents following the theft of these vehicles in New York. Hyundai and Kia are in the process of implementing a software patch that will repair their vehicles’ vulnerabilities, but the patch is being rolled out in phases and will not be available for all vehicle models.

“So far this year, Rochester has seen 403 Kias and 386 Hyundais stolen from our residents,” said U.S. Representative Joe Morelle. “Not only do these thefts pose a danger to our children, families, and businesses, they place an undue strain on our law enforcement — tying up their resources and making it more difficult in a time when they’re already overburdened. I’m grateful to Attorney General James for taking steps to end this crisis, and remain committed to a collaborative, all-hands-on-deck approach by government to strengthen public safety.”

“Over the past five months, more than 1,400 Kias and Hyundais have been stolen in Monroe County, partly due to TikTok’s promotion of how-to guides for car theft,” said Monroe County Executive Adam Bello. “This puts people and businesses at risk and drains law enforcement resources. Kia and Hyundai must also take responsibility for vulnerabilities in their vehicles that allow easy theft. I support Attorney General James’ call for a national recall of these unsafe vehicles, provision of anti-theft devices, and faster software updates to prevent future thefts.”

“This rash of vehicle thefts is negatively impacting the quality of life of Rochester’s residents and the livelihoods of Rochester’s business owners — and the costs to taxpayers are skyrocketing,” said Rochester Mayor Malik D. Evans. “So not only are we holding perpetrators of these thefts accountable, we are joining eight other municipalities in pursuing litigation to hold these manufacturers accountable for marketing vehicles without anti-theft technology and for failing to address the issue. I’d like to thank the Attorney General for continuing to build awareness, alerting consumers, and calling on the NHTSA to issue a recall.”

“I thank Attorney General Letitia James for once again standing up for New Yorkers,” said State Senator Jeremy Cooney. “Kia and Hyundai thefts have become an epidemic in Monroe County, and I applaud the Attorney General and her fellow attorneys general across the country for sending a strong message to these car manufacturers that they must take action to correct system flaws and security failures. I stand ready to assist in any way I can on the state level, and will do everything in my power to ensure these public safety threats putting lives and livelihoods at risk are stopped.”

“The prevalence of this ignition issue in Hyundais and Kias have been a major contributor to crime in Rochester,” said Assemblymember Jen Lunsford. “I commend the Attorney General for taking on this issue in a larger attempt to address public safety throughout our state.”

As part of her ongoing efforts to combat theft and protect New Yorkers, Attorney General James and a coalition of 17 other attorneys general called for a national recall of these unsafe vehicles. Additionally, Attorney General James and the coalition urged Hyundai and Kia to speed up their efforts to install software patches that would prevent vehicles from being easily stolen and provide free anti-theft steering wheel devices to all impacted owners whose vehicles are not eligible for the software patch. 

Attorney General James also recommends New Yorkers who own Hyundai and Kia vehicles manufactured between 2011 and 2022 to immediately take the following steps to protect themselves against theft:

  • If you’re a Kia owner or lessee, you should check Kia’s website or call Kia directly to check the status of your vehicle’s eligibility for a software upgrade or free steering wheel lock. You can contact Kia’s Customer Care team toll-free at 1-800-333-4542 or online via its Owners Portal. 
  • If you’re a Hyundai owner or lessee, you should check Hyundai’s website or call Hyundai directly to check the status of your vehicle’s eligibility for a software upgrade or free steering wheel lock. You can call Hyundai’s customer care agents toll-free at 1-888-498-0390 or visit its website for more information.
  • Immediately contact your Hyundai/Kia dealer to ask about having the software on your vehicle upgraded to repair the vulnerabilities that make the vehicles uniquely prone to car theft.
  • Request an anti-theft steering wheel device from Hyundai or Kia if your vehicle is not immediately eligible for a software patch that would repair its vulnerabilities.   
  • Check your mail regularly and be aware of any notices from Hyundai, Kia, or government agencies regarding any mandatory or voluntary recalls of vehicles or additional safety measures that may become available for your vehicle. 
  • If your vehicle has been stolen or you believe someone has attempted to steal your vehicle, contact your local police precinct to report the incident.

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