WEST SEATTLE CRIME WATCH: Westcrest Park car-prowl victim’s warning

From a reader reporting anonymously:

(Friday) sometime between 12:00-1:30 pm, in the South parking lot at Westcrest Park, my car was broken into – no sign of forced entry and nothing obvious taken – except for my wallet, from the glove compartment. I was playing with my son for about 20 minutes at the small play area there in front of the lot, and did take passing note of a sketchy looking man hanging out listening to his radio and possibly reading a newspaper in a beat-up old-model white pickup truck.

After 20 minutes, we walked the dog into the dog park, then played for an hour or so at the Westcrest playground and then returned to the car around 1:45 pm. I noticed my wallet was gone only when I went to grab it before heading into a store around 2 pm. I then started receiving text alerts about suspicious charges about 15 minutes later. The thieves racked up over $11,000 or charges at Apple, Nordstrom, Macy’s, and other stores, all at Southcenter – within probably 20 or 30 minutes, before their charges started being declined and I was notified. While filing a police report, I was told by the officer that it is relatively common for thieves to use signal-boosting devices for RFID key fobs to mirror the correct frequency to a vehicle and thereby gain entry without any apparent sign of forced breaking and entering. These devices can work over a fairly sizable range: the playground we were at near this parking lot would be well within range. I had no idea such a thing existed and hopefully others can learn from my mistake:

1) Westcrest parking lot, in the middle of the day, as per other reports on here, is still a high car prowl, sketchy place.

2) Be aware of suspicious looking car-sitters and remove all valuables from your car. The glove box is the first place they target after any visible purses on seats.

3) Thieves can essentially gain entrance to your vehicle if you have a keyfob and hang out relatively near your vehicle for a while. Consider getting an RFID blocking device and place your key in it.

Regardless of whether they’re using an electronic device, car prowlers can work quickly, we’ve heard from police and victims time and time again, without those nearby, even in busy areas, being aware of what’s going on.

13 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE CRIME WATCH: Westcrest Park car-prowl victim's warning"

  • Rick April 22, 2018 (11:25 am)

    Just don’t have anything nice or of any value. Problem solved.

  • bob formerly of west seattle April 22, 2018 (2:24 pm)

    It appears amplifiers are what the thieves are using. IF your key fob is within 50′ of the car they can hack into it and amplify the signal as though you are pushing the “unlock” button.  The device is easy to acquire on line and some suggestions are to put your keys in the refrigerator or freezer so the signal cannot go through the walls of the appliance. Someone else suggested wrapping the key fob in tin foil. Lastely there is a key fob pouch made out of material that will not allow radio frequencies to penetrate thus they cannot gain access using the amplifier. 

    Ahhh… modern electronics, we just have to stay one step ahead of the thieves. 

    • HappyOnAlki April 22, 2018 (4:18 pm)

      Google “Faraday cage auto key” or something similar and you’ll find the pouches — I got one called Silent Pocket for about $16.

  • flimflam April 22, 2018 (4:19 pm)

    shocking that in this era of ID theft and crime in general no stores seem to ask for photo ID, etc anymore, ever.

  • Helpme April 22, 2018 (8:50 pm)

    This linked pub states merchants try to check id to protect against losses from fraudulent charges. Then it states that visa network does not allow merchants to ask for id if card is signed (although no signature is frequently req for charging). Since visa doesn’t want merchants to check id, I would assume that visa would cover fraudulent charges. If so, why are merchants trying to protect against losses by checking that purchaser is cardholder? If merchant is taking the hit, why would VISA forbid merchant to protect themselves?!

    can someone help me understand? 

    Don’t give me that line about avoiding confrontation/ because charges frequently don’t go through for whatever reason, and the business doesn’t just hand over a item to avoid confrontation..?!

  • aa April 22, 2018 (9:36 pm)

    This may sound obvious to some, if you are going to leave something in the trunk while you take a walk or other such thing, make sure you put it in the trunk prior to parking your car. You never want to be seen locking something in to the trunk at your destination.

    • sam-c April 23, 2018 (10:05 am)

      Yes, would agree. My mom passed that wisdom on to me when I started driving..26 years ago

  • BornonAlki59 April 23, 2018 (7:58 am)

    To those concerned about checking ID using credit or debit cards simply write “photo id required” in the signiture box. Ive been doing this for years and most vendors will comply.

    • Scoob April 23, 2018 (1:08 pm)

      Second this. I write “ASK FOR PHOTO ID” in the signature line on all my cards. Works great.

    • John on Vashon April 23, 2018 (1:55 pm)

      But what about merchants who use a chip card reader?  They never ask me to even see the card. 

  • steve April 23, 2018 (2:18 pm)

    Whenever I see a sketchy person/car when going to a park,  I take a pic of them or their vehicle.

    • Word April 24, 2018 (12:39 pm)

      You must have a vast collection. What will you do with this album- start a tumblr page?

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