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Seattle police warn Kia drivers after TikTok trend prompts spike in thefts

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The Seattle Police Department is sending a message to Kia owners: watch your cars closely and get extra anti-theft protection. A TikTok trend is being blamed for a recent rise in Kia thefts.

The TikTok videos provide instructions for how to break into a Kia and start it using a unique hack — a USB charging cable. SPD says a recent rise in Kia thefts across the city may be inspired by online tutorials which are being called the "Kia challenge," and have gone viral on TikTok.

According to SPD:

"In July, police investigated 36 reports of stolen Kias (compared to five in July 2021) and believe suspects may be using a method learned from TikTok, using a USB drive or cable and other tools, in place of a key, to start a vehicle. The vehicles stolen in July—Kia models Optima, Soul, Sorrento, Forte, and Sportage—were all manufactured between 2014 and 2021."

Seattle police point to an incident in August as an example. A group in a stolen Kia were caught attempting to steal another Kia on Capitol Hill. Two of the suspects were caught, a 17-year-old boy and a 16-year-old boy. Police allege that the 16-year-old is linked to another Kia theft in July. He reportedly learned how to start the cars from videos on TikTok. The two teens were booked on charges of possession of a stolen car and unlawful possession of a firearm (a ghost gun).

The Puget Sound Auto Theft Task Force (a partnership between King and Pierce Counties), has issued its own warning, noting that 2011 or newer Kias, or a 2015 or newer Hyundais are "at risk."

What the Seattle Police Department reports appears to be part of a national trend. ABC News reports a dramatic spike in thefts of Kias nationally. ABC focused on Cook County, Illinois — covering Chicago, it's the most populated county in the state. In Cook County, there were 74 thefts of Kias in July and part of August in 2021. During that same time in 2022, there have been 642 Kia thefts. The local sheriff is also blaming instructions on TikTok for the rise in thefts.

Portland's KGW8 reports that a multistate lawsuit has been filed against Kia and Hyundai, alleging that the companies produced cars that are easy to steal.

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