Study: TikTok trend of hotwiring certain car models linked to surge in car thefts in U.S. cities
By Zoey Sky // Jul 27, 2023

TikTok, the controversial social media app with ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), is causing trouble among car owners.

A study by the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ) on July 20 revealed how car thefts have increased by 33.5 percent across major cities because many thieves recklessly share how-to videos of hotwiring cars on TikTok. This adds up to 23,974 more stolen vehicles across the 32 cities studied, with cases more than doubling in Rochester, Cincinnati and other cities.

According to reports, thieves are hotwiring vulnerable Kia and Hyundai models using only a USB cable.

The "Kia Boyz"

Some car models sold by Hyundai and Kia in the U.S. did not come with engine immobilizers, a standard feature on most cars since the 1990s. This feature is essential to preventing a car engine from starting unless the key is present.

Groups of mostly juvenile offenders all over America, who call themselves the "Kia Boyz," are brashly posting videos of themselves using screwdrivers and cables to start cars and going on joyrides.

During the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, bored and tech-savvy teenagers started posting online videos showing how to steal Kias and Hyundais.

Car thefts have skyrocketed around the U.S. since then, with the social media challenge — where people film themselves doing something, then post the video online as "proof" — causing deadly car crashes, a class-action lawsuit and drops in the Kia's and Hyundai's stock prices.

Both carmakers have started offering software updates and recalling cars, but the damage was done.

In late 2021, the "Kia Boys" started going viral on TikTok. The teenagers were participating in a social media challenge that involved stealing Kias and Hyundais using a specific method and posting the results on different apps, such as TikTok, Snapchat and YouTube.

By then, these teenagers have stolen tens of thousands of cars. The teens are mostly from Milwaukee and Columbus, Ohio, but as of writing the trend has spread nationwide.

The Kia Boys are not an official organization but are a general collective of teenagers who have used a specific hack to steal cars.

Ironically, many of these troublemakers are too young to have a driver's license. The boys don't steal the cars for money or to keep the cars but for fun and joy rides.

At least one arrest has been made in connection to "Kia Boyz" crimes.

In June 2022, Markell Hughes was arrested in Milwaukee after he crashed a stolen red Hyundai. Police were able to match the license plate of the car to one that had been reported stolen.

They also identified Hughes and the vehicle in a YouTube video called "Kia Boys Documentary (A Story of Teenage Car Theft)," which now has more than six million views.

The situation has gotten so out of hand that some insurers have refused to cover the vulnerable cars.

The following cities affected by the TikTok-inspired thefts have sued the carmakers for damages:

  • Baltimore
  • Cincinnati
  • Cleveland
  • Milwaukee
  • New York
  • Rochester
  • San Diego
  • Seattle

Rochester the worst hit city

CCJ researchers described the skyrocketing car theft rates as "particularly striking."

Rochester, the country's worst-hit city, saw car thefts increase by a shocking 355 percent in the first six months of 2023 against the same period last 2022.

Buffalo, Cincinnati, Chicago, Durham and Memphis saw theft rates more than double. Meanwhile, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Omaha and St. Louis also saw major upticks.

Researchers believe that the bulk of the increase could be due to the vulnerability of Kia and Hyundai models. They also noted that the rates "were already trending upward before these vehicles became popular targets."

Older models of the Toyota Prius and other hybrids have also been targeted, specifically because of the precious metals in their catalytic converters. These metals can sold for hundreds of dollars on the black market.

Back in May, both Kia and Hyundai agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit worth around $200 million over rampant car thefts of the Korean carmakers' vehicles. (Related: Car theft has been effectively decriminalized in London as less than 1% of London car thieves face any legal repercussions.)

The settlement covered an estimated nine million American owners and included up to $145 million for out-of-pocket losses for those whose vehicles were stolen.

Hyundai and Kia announced that they would compensate owners "who incurred theft-related vehicle losses or damage in addition to reimbursement for insurance deductibles, increased insurance premiums, and other theft-related losses."

The agreement also included a software upgrade for the target vehicles or a reimbursement of up to $300 for anti-theft devices.

Rochester, the worst-hit city in 2023, joined the lawsuit in June.

At the time, police chief David Smith reported that car thieves had broken into 1,063 vehicles in 2023, compared to only 387 in the first four months of 2022. The reports included 403 Kias and 386 Hyundais.

Rochester Mayor Malik Evans criticized the carmakers because they "knowingly made, distributed, and marketed these cars with serious security flaws." He added that the Korean carmakers "dragged their feet" when it came to protecting the cars.

But while car thefts are surging, CCJ researchers reported that other crimes are gradually declining from peaks reached during a surge amid the pandemic. For example, homicide and most other violent crimes decreased in cities in the first half of 2023.

Richard Rosenfeld, co-author of the study and professor emeritus at the University of Missouri – St. Louis, explained that the declines were "encouraging" but that violent criminals still kill thousands of victims every year.

The CCJ report assesses monthly crime rates for 10 violent, property and drug offenses in about three dozen cities, which include some of the country's largest.

But the researchers acknowledged that the information they have is patchy and that they are having a hard time painting a national picture of crime trends when the country lacks reliable official federal data on an issue that affects millions of citizens.

Watch the video below to know more about how TikTok is ruining your life.

This video is from the FreedomClan channel on

More related stories:

Car theft is effectively ‘decriminalized’ in London.

UT Austin bans TikTok on campus, citing security concerns.

Data privacy concerns raised as analysis finds China-based developers were responsible for TikTok’s code.

Sources include:

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