Social media has its perks, from keeping yourself informed to keeping in touch with friends and family. TikTok is now one of the most popular platforms, amassing 1.4 billion users worldwide. With so many users, ideas and trends can quickly circulate and even “go viral.” And while some trends have motivated people to take up fun hobbies like baking bread or getting fit, others can do more damage. Now, a TikTok trend has led to a spike in car thefts, according to police across the country. Read on to find out if your vehicle could be the target and what you can do to protect yourself.
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TikTok trends also include “challenges,” a subset of trends where users film themselves completing a particular task or action. Earlier this summer, police in Green Bay, Wisconsin, warned of one of these challenges that involved seeing realistically toy splatter guns. As part of the challenge, the gel splatter guns were used to shooting at others from cars and balconies, ABC30 Action News reported.
Both dangerous and illegal, police urged parents to be aware of these toy guns, as “they can still cause injury or damage,” according to the Green Bay Police Department. In Clovis, California, an 18-year-old was arrested after shooting a gel pellet from a vehicle while driving through a parking lot, and in another case, a teenager in Jackson, Mississippi, was killed in a “joke went wrongwith one of these weapons.
Now there’s another TikTok challenge that the police are concerned about, and this time social media users seem to be deliberately causing harm.
Police across the country are warning the public of an increase in car thefts, which they say is due to a TikTok trend showing how easy certain cars are to steal. According to WPXI-TV, the trend is mainly carried out by teenagers, who use USB cables to start and steal the vehicles.
“You’ve heard of all these challengesthings that are very dangerous”, Jesse MintonA spokesman for the Texas Arlington Police Department told ABC affiliate WFAA.
In a move that seems counterintuitive, the thieves film themselves breaking into cars and post them on TikTok. “They get, you know, street cred, and a… little attention“Sergeant Cody Lance of the St. Petersburg Police Department in Florida told the Tampa Bay Times.
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Police warn that certain brands are targeted, namely Kia and Hyundai cars. According to the Miami HeraldThe TikTok trend has been dubbed the “Kia Challenge” and recently, vehicles were reported stolen in several states, including Kentucky, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Minnesota and Virginia. The trend started in Milwaukee, but thanks to social media, other parts of the country have now seen copycat crimes.
“A collaborative group started in Milwaukee and is spreading across the country where they can take these vehicles with them simply by using a cell phone charging cable and using that to start the vehicle,” Tom HuerbinPittsburgh Police Sergeant told WPXI-TV, pointing out that more than 15,000 vehicles have been stolen in the Milwaukee area.
In Norfolk, Virginia, a 35 percent increase Thefts were reported in Kia and Hyundai between July 1 and July 17, the Norfolk Police Department (NPD) confirmed to WAVY news channel. In Pittsburgh, 15 vehicles were stolen with USB cables, up from five reported in June, Huerbin told WPXI-TV. “So obviously it’s increasing here in the area, so it’s a concern,” he said. “And we want to make people aware of that.”
Hyundai and Kia have made statements about the increase in thefts, with both manufacturers adding that their vehicles “meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards,” according to the Miami Herald and WPXI TV.
“The safety and well-being of our customers and the community is and will remain our top priority,” said Hyundai. Kia confirmed that from the 2022 model year, “all Kia vehicles will have immobilizers as standard”, while Hyundai said all their “new” vehicles will have these immobilizers as “standard equipment”.
TikTok also addressed concerns about the trend, stating, “Content that promotes or facilitates criminal activity, including theft, violates our Community Guidelines and will be removed from the platform,” the statement said. Miami Herald. If you use TikTok and see one of these videos, you should too report them by clicking the white arrow to the right of the video and then selecting “Report” and “Illegal Activities” as the reason, according to News week.
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Police forces are asking car owners to be aware of these challenges, especially those who drive newer Kia and Hyundai models. Kia vehicles made after 2015 and Hyundai vehicles made after 2011 are at risk, according to the NPD (via WAVY), because they have a “vulnerability” that allows thieves to start them with a USB cable after removing the steering column.
In addition to general safety practices, such as parking your car in well-lit areas and keeping your doors locked at all times, the police are asking you to take extra care by investing in a steering wheel lock or security camera. You can also try parking your car closer to your house, Minton told WFAA, and don’t leave your keys in the car or run if you’re not in it.
Both Kia and Hyundai told the Miami Herald that customers can contact them with questions and concerns. You can reach Kia Customer Service at 1-800-333-4552 and you can call Hyundai Customer Service at 800-633-5151.