Protect Your Car from the Kia Boyz

by | Jan 25, 2023

The Kia Boyz - Photo of Kia sedan

Over the past few years, the U.S. has seen an increase in automobile and auto part thefts. This problem has only gotten bigger since supply chain problems dramatically increased the value resellers could get for used cars and chopped parts. And while you might expect expensive cars to be the primary targets, that’s not quite true. Low-cost Kia and Hyundai cars have become some of the most at-risk vehicles. Why? Well, it all started with the “Kia Boyz.”

Who (Or What) Are the Kia Boyz?

The Cut gives us the scoop. In 2022, a TikTok surfaced of a Milwaukee car thief using a screwdriver and a USB charger to start and steal a Kia quickly thanks to a system vulnerability. The video soon went viral. Despite the video being taken down on July 20, many copycat videos sprung up of teenagers, and some even younger, stealing cars and joyriding. The “Kia Boyz” (sometimes spelled “Kia Boys”) trend was born.

The Influence of a Viral Stunt

Particularly daring teens and pre-teens see the trend as a social media challenge. Often, the videos show the thieves hanging out the windows, reaching out of sunroofs, or riding on the hood of the vehicle while their friends swerve around. They frequently leave cars damaged and abandoned. As one might expect, these joyrides don’t always go as planned. Multiple Kia Boyz stunts have ended in police intervention or in a wreck.

Because of the trend, thefts of older Kia models have skyrocketed. (Hyundai, too, since the two manufacturers share the vital system vulnerability.) The Kia Boyz challenge may have started in Milwaukee, but it has since spread throughout the country. Car owners have reported incidents throughout the Midwest, Seattle, California, and Colorado. According to Motor Biscuit, Kia thefts in Chicago increased nearly tenfold over the course of one year. Because of the trend, Kia and Hyundai models are among the most stolen cars in many Midwestern states.

As the popularity of the trend has grown through social media, law enforcement has struggled to keep up.

Inside the Mind of the Kia Boyz

It’s important to note that children, not organized criminals, are behind the thefts. Of the 9,611 theft incidents, Milwaukee police reported that 48.8% of the perpetrators were 16 or younger, with the youngest being a 10-year-old. A further look shows that 81.5% are 25 years old or younger. The goal of these young criminals is to get famous, not to get rich. TikTok and other social media platforms have responded by removing Kia Boyz and other car theft content as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

Not long after the initial video appeared, a Youtuber named Tommy G interviewed masked teenagers who claimed to be the Kia Boyz. In the short video (“Kia Boys Documentary: A Story of Teenage Car Theft”), the teens talk about how easy it is to take cars. They show how quickly they can nab one. Some of them joyride while the interview takes place, driving through a nearby lawn and nearly running into a sign.

They don’t seem worried about getting caught, as the penalty for joyriding is a misdemeanor. (And again, younger criminals mean lesser punishments.) They don’t see what they are doing as hurting anyone. In their eyes, folks have insurance for the damage, and those that don’t are doing something illegal.

How Kia Is Responding

The security problem exists because of a vulnerability to the steering column. Because the ignition is so easily accessible, a thief can quickly start the engine with any USB device. Many modern cars have a safety feature called an “immobilizer” that prevents a car from being able to start without the key. In fact, many Canadian cars use a similar ignition system to Kia’s, but these are required by law to use an immobilizer.

As the Kia Boyz problem continues to grow, Kia has been working with law enforcement to provide free wheel locks to those in highly affected areas. They’ve also promised that all of their 2022 models and newer will come standard with an immobilizer. Despite this, on November 2, 2022, Kia owners filed a class action lawsuit against the company.

Protect Your Kia or Hyundai

If you live somewhere that has fallen under the Kia Boyz influence (such as Milwaukee, St. Louis, Memphis, etc.) and own an older Kia or Hyundai, you absolutely must secure your vehicle. Hyundai sells a $170 kit to upgrade your ride, which doesn’t include labor. That might be out of budget for some car owners.

In the short term, there are plenty of anti-theft devices on the market, such as steering wheel locks, wheel clamps, and alarms. You can find a decent gadget online for $30-$50. (Check out more car theft prevention tips in Deep Sentinel’s recent article.) In the long term, secure your car and other property with home security cameras.

All Deep Sentinel surveillance systems come with a team of full-time live security personnel. Two-way speakers allow the guard team to intervene as soon as the system’s AI detects someone on camera, before a break-in or theft. Should a crime occur, the guards call the police with verified crime information. This process gets the police onto the scene faster than any other security system.

Deep Sentinel guards are on duty 24/7 and active every day of the year. When you have Deep Sentinel looking out for you, the world is a safer place—Kia Boyz or no Kia Boyz.

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