Burglarizing cars just got high-tech.

Forget the old days of baseball bats and smashed windows, today’s thieves use sophisticated devices to rip off unsuspecting victims.

And with the holidays upon us and shoppers packing gifts inside their vehicles, Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant is warning the public about the latest scheme thieves are using to gain access to vehicles.

Bryant said thieves are using a device that clones the frequency from the automated locks on keychains.

“The thieves sit out in the parking lot and wait for people to get out of their car. When they hit the keychain to lock the doors, they are able to use a device that clones the frequency,” Bryant said. “Once the victim enters the building, the thieves can open the car and clean it out.”

But there is a way to avoid this. Bryant said rather than using the keychain to lock the vehicle, use the lock on the door panel.

“That doesn’t send out a frequency,” he said.

He also said he has not received any reports of this happening in Erath County, but said it’s only a matter of time.

“This is mainly happening in the big cities, but I assure you that it will make its way here soon,” he said. 

Bryant said there are other precautions drivers can take to reduce their chance of getting “taken for a ride.”

• Eliminate the appeal: never leave valuable property in your car. This includes CDs, shopping bags and pocket change.

• Eliminate the ease of entry: Always lock the doors and roll up the windows. If you own a car alarm, use it. If you don’t, car alarm warning stickers can be purchased and affixed to your vehicle.

• Increase the criminal’s risk: Park your car where it can be easily observed. Go out of your way to park under a light, even if it means walking a little further.