MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) — LaKeithea Anderson was getting ready on Tuesday when the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office called, asking if she knew where her car was.
To her surprise, it wasn’t parked outside of her Smyrna apartment. It was found damaged and abandoned in Murfreesboro.
Dozens of Kia and Hyundai owners have become victims of car theft as a TikTok video showing how to start the vehicles without a key circulates online.
“This is one of the dangers of these social media trends that you see, like this TikTok challenge,” explained Larry Flowers, public information officer for the Murfreesboro Police Department (MPD). “It’s the innocent, hardworking people who are suffering the most. They’re having to repair their cars, and of course, the possibility of their insurance going up.”
Anderson said she’s feeling the financial impact of this trend. Not only will she need to pay for towing and restoration, on top of her monthly car payments, but she’ll also need to work remotely while the car is repaired.
“It really is a headache, and it’s unfortunate,” said Anderson. “Something was taken from you that you work hard to have.”
According to the MPD, there has been a surge in stolen Kias and Hyundais, with 65 of these vehicles reported stolen in Murfreesboro so far in 2023. That is a significant increase from the 18 stolen in 2022 and the 22 stolen in 2021.
“They had so many cars come in that day that the police officer sent my car information to the wrong person because it was such a mix-up,” Anderson recalled.
Authorities recommend parking in well-lit areas, locking your doors, and installing anti-theft systems to deter thieves. Drivers are also reminded not to leave keys, key fobs, or valuables inside your vehicles.
“A thief will get into these vehicles, they may be stealing it to joyride, they may be stealing it to commit other crimes, but if they see something of value in that car, they’re going to take that as well,” said Flowers.
For Anderson, the thief allegedly stole her old laptop. She said she will be getting a steering wheel lock to help prevent this from happening again.
The South Korean automakers, Hyundai and Kia, are set to issue a software upgrade for some of their vehicles, with officials saying that models without engine mobilizers are more vulnerable to theft.
Hyundai owners can call 800-633-5151 for assistance, while Kia owners can call 800-333-4542. According to the MPD, both automakers are also offering free steering wheel locks.