Remote jamming: reasonable precautions required

Remote jamming – or car jamming – has become an everyday occurrence in South Africa - and it is on the increase. The South African Insurance Association (SAIA) confirmed that remote jamming is the second most common way personal belongings are stolen from a car.

It is quite hard to detect because it happens so quickly and often the crime is only discovered once the vehicle and the criminals have left the scene of the crime.

How car jamming happens

Car jamming happens when a remote-control unit is used to override the locking function of your car remote.

Most vehicle owners activate their car alarm by pressing the lock button on their car remotes as they walk away from their vehicle. In the case of remote jamming, the criminal is within watching distance, waiting for the car owner to exit his vehicle. At the same time as the car owner locks the car by pressing the lock button on the car remote, the criminal activates the jamming device. This device interferes with - and ultimately over-rides - the vehicle’s locking system, leaving the car unlocked and the owner unaware of the impending threat to his possessions in the vehicle.

As the owner disappears out of sight, the thief approaches the vehicle opens the door or car boot and steals the items inside the vehicle, without having to force entry. It’s a scary fact that an ordinary household remote can be used as a jamming device in this way.

This video illustrates how car jamming works and how an anti-car jamming device can warn you of any interference with your remote locking signal.

How the insurer sees it
From the insurer’s point of view, it is the driver’s responsibility to make sure the vehicle is securely locked, especially when there are valuables in the car. Knowing that car jamming is a daily risk, vehicle owners are liable to take this reasonable precaution to ensure the safety of their belongings.

Broadly speaking, a claim submitted for any losses as a result of car jamming will be rejected. Without evidence of forced or violent entry, the claim will most likely be invalid. The Ombudsman has confirmed that they will uphold decisions to reject claims in these circumstances.

It is best to talk to your broker about the different restrictions and specifications of each underwriter as it may differ for each insurer based on their conditions.

Take reasonable precautions
Never assume that your vehicle is locked merely because you have activated the remote locking feature. The vehicle owner (or driver) must always ensure that the vehicle is locked, to the extent that the driver is expected to manually check the door handle. This is regarded as a reasonable precaution to negate the risk of car jamming.

How to avoid remote jamming:

  • Never leave any valuables in your car when you leave your car unattended.
  • Park your car in a secure area with enough light, preferably where there are security personnel.
  • Be vigilant! Be aware of your surroundings or any suspicious people in the immediate area. If you notice anything out of the ordinary report it to the owner of the property or drive away and park in a safer area. 
  • Do not walk away from your car when you’re activating the alarm remotely. Test one of the doors and the boot by manually trying to open it before walking away from your vehicle.
  • Look out for the car locking confirmation signals like a beeping sound or flashings.
  • Investigate anti-remote jamming devices to help detect any interference with your remote signal.

Talk to your Garrun broker to discuss the specifics of your insurance policy.