YouTube Under Fire Due To “How to” Kia Theft Vids

Thefts of Kia and Hyundai automobiles increased dramatically across the United States in 2022, and insurance industry associations claim misuse of social media platforms such as YouTube, by individuals and criminal organizations are contributing to the spike in illegal activity.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau, Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, and International Association of Special Investigation Units sent a joint letter to YouTube Chief Executive Officer Susan Wojcicki requesting the social media platform remove “how to” videos that provide detailed instructions for stealing Kia and Hyundai automobiles.

The videos in question show a vulnerability in some Kia and Hyundai car models whose engines normally start utilizing a physical key (not a push-button / keyfob start) and are also not equipped with an immobilizer. Some such models may be started if the thief has a USB thumb drive or a USB connector, and the knowledge of what to do with them.

“Everyday consumers are being victimized by criminals using social media platforms to learn their newest illegal tricks and techniques,” said David Glawe, President and CEO of the National Insurance Crime Bureau. “Some platforms are not doing enough to protect innocent victims from unnecessary harm.”

Since these tutorial-type videos started appearing on YouTube, TikTok, and other social media platforms, many police departments across the U.S. have reported drastic increases in Kia and Hyundai thefts, including in:

  • Chicago: 601 Kia and Hyundai vehicles were stolen in August 2022, compared to just 58 in August 2021, according to the Cook County Sheriff’s Department.
  • Los Angeles: An 85% increase in Kia and Hyundai thefts were committed in 2022 compared to 2021, according to Los Angeles police officials.
  • St. Louis: 48% of the 3,970 motor vehicles reported stolen in 2022 (through August) were Kia and Hyundai models, compared with only 7% of the total vehicles stolen in 2021, according to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
  • Milwaukee (where the original video was filmed): Two thirds of the 5,144 vehicles stolen in 2021 (through July) were Kia and Hyundai models.

“Insurance fraud is the crime we all pay for. Posting of videos such as these harms American consumers by increasing auto thefts and driving up higher premiums. It is time for practices such as these to stop. We can all play a part in fighting insurance crime,” said Matthew Smith, Executive Director of the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.

“Enabling criminals to share the tools and techniques of their trade through posting videos online adversely impacts all consumers,” said Celeste Dodson, President of the International Association of Special Investigation Units. “When a vehicle is stolen, it is often not the end of the crime but the beginning. Vehicle thefts are associated with a multitude of criminal activity, including insurance fraud. The cost of these crimes is then passed on to consumers through higher premiums.”

In the letter to YouTube, industry leaders acknowledge that other social media platforms, including TikTok, need to do more to prevent these types of videos from being shared. However, YouTube has failed to remove many of these videos from its own platform.

REPORT FRAUD: Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800.TEL.NICB (800.835.6422) or submitting a form on the NICB website.