Tech-Savvy Thieves Are Using Bluetooth to Steal Pricey Devices from Cars in New Burglary Trend Thieves employ Bluetooth scanners to gauge signal strength and identify target vehicles with high-value electronics.

By Madeline Garfinkle

Key Takeaways

  • Car thieves are using Bluetooth technology to detect devices in vehicles.
  • Police advise disabling Bluetooth and turning off devices to deter theft, noting that sleep mode can still emit detectable signals, making devices vulnerable.

In the Bay Area, a prevailing concern about car burglaries is rising as criminals are capitalizing on Bluetooth technology to locate electronics in vehicles, essentially determining whether it's worth breaking in, CBS reported.

In the first week of August alone, there were a staggering 240 reported burglaries throughout the Bay Area, a staggering 42% increase from the previous year, per CBS. The trend has caught on around the state and has prompted police officials in California to issue a collective public warning.

The tech-savvy thieves use Bluetooth scanners and locator apps—which are normally used to find lost gadgets like AirPods—to detect variations in signal strength. By approaching a vehicle, they can discern the signal strengths of Bluetooth devices, enabling them to find the approximate location of the device within the car.

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Sgt. Tim Lendman of the Bay Area's Livermore Police Department highlighted to CBS the criminals' ability to differentiate between various vehicles and select the one with the most appealing electronic devices.

"A thief would take a Bluetooth scanner, much like this, and walk up towards a vehicle," he told the outlet. "And we can see changing signal strength on Bluetooth devices. And by walking around a vehicle, I can often target where that device might be located and its approximate signal strength, to know I'm going to steal from this vehicle, not another vehicle."

The police advisory is straightforward: to prevent potential theft, individuals should either turn off Bluetooth functionality or power off their electronic devices entirely, as even when laptops are in sleep mode they continue to emit detectable signals.

"As these products age, the technology to breach them exceeds the technology that protects them and they become vulnerable," Rob Enderle, a technology analyst and consultant, told The San Francisco Chronicle.

The trend has popped up elsewhere, too. In late 2022, Houston police noticed Bluetooth being used to break into vehicles during the hectic holiday season, prompting signs to be put up in the Galleria shopping center warning shoppers not to leave any electronics in their cars or turn them off completely, KHou reported.

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Madeline Garfinkle

Entrepreneur Staff

News Writer

Madeline Garfinkle is a News Writer at She is a graduate from Syracuse University, and received an MFA from Columbia University. 

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