Drivers in Gravesend were unable to lock or in some cases even start their car’s engines, after a rogue radio frequency jammer was activated.
Shoppers at the town’s Asda found that their remote key fobs were unresponsive, leaving them unable to secure their cars. The disturbance was reportedly caused by a radio frequency jammer, a device which interrupts the signal from low-powered wireless devices such as key fobs.
Even a cheap jammer can have a range of up to 75 metres, which could be sufficient to cover a whole car park.
The news got worse for those who had remote alarms or immobilisers that were activated by the key fob – some of them were even unable to start their engines while the jammer was active.
Mark Hill was one of those affected. He told Kent Live: “I got there about 11:30am and couldn’t lock the car.
“My car has a key and an immobiliser on the key fob. The immobiliser needs to be turned off for the key to work the ignition. As the key fob wouldn’t work, I couldn’t start it.”
Hill said that the same problem was occurring for motorists across the car parks, with alarms going off and vehicles unable to be locked or started.
Radio frequency jammers are illegal in the UK. They can be used for theft – with unsuspecting motorists unaware that their cars haven’t been locked when they leave them. Opportunist thieves can then sneak into the unlocked vehicle and steal it.
Under section 68 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006, it’s illegal to use jammers or other apparatus to interrupt radio signals in the UK. It can carry a maximum penalty of two years in prison.