NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City is stepping up warnings to Kia and Hyundai owners about a social media trend that can put some vehicles at risk for theft.
"As we continue to decrease crime and move crime in the right direction, we don't need aggravating factors as such as what we're seeing any social media challenge of this magnitude," said NYC Mayor Eric Adams.
It's been identified by some as the Kia Challenge, and it exploits a design vulnerability in some Kia and Hyundai cars which allows the ignition to be bypassed using a USB cable.
What's worse, the trick to stealing the cars is hiding in plain sight on social media, specifically on TikTok.
The video shows viewers exactly how to crack-open the steering column and start the cars up without using a key.
The trend has become so widespread, the NYPD has been posting warnings on social media.
So far this year, more than three hundred Kias and Hyundais have been stolen in the city-an increase of nearly 500% over last year.
"We're finding them abandoned," said NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell. "We believe teenagers are stealing them-based on the videos-for joyriding. But we cannot ignore the fact there's a possibility they are being used in the commission of a crime. Obviously, the stealing of them themselves is the crime. But there's a more dangerous crime that can happen down the road that we want to prevent."
Kia and Hyundai dealers are offering free in-person software downloads to prevent the thefts. Police are recommending steering wheel locking devices as another means.
"Always turn off the ignition and remove the keys when leaving your vehicle," said Sewell. "Close and lock all windows and doors activate your vehicles alarm system and park in high traffic, well-lit areas whenever possible. In addition, we want to stress along with the mayor, that Kia and Hyundai offer free software upgrades to anyone who owns an affected model."
The vulnerable cars include about 4.5 million Kias and 3.8 million Hyundais.
Both Korean car brands, which are part of the same conglomerate, are increasingly popular in America.
They accounted for about 10% of all U.S. auto sales last year.
The manufacturers claim to be constantly monitoring TikTok and YouTube for new how-to videos to be removed.
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