Kia Boyz TikTok challenge sparks theft surge using USB cables

Kia owners are being put on notice after a TikTok video goes viral -- showing people how to steal the rides. The LX trim model vehicles are mainly the targets in this new trend, and thieves are using USB cables to do it.

"I was parked right here, I pulled up right here, and my aunt knocked on the door and said, ''Tonia, where's your car at?'" said Latonia. "(I said) outside, and she said 'It's not here.'"

Make no mistake about it, Latonia is only laughing to keep from crying. Her 2022 Kia Sportage was stolen right from the driveway on Detroit’s east side around 4 a.m. Tuesday.

"I felt defeated," she said.

She’s just one of a growing number of Kia owners whose cars have been stolen thanks in part to the work of the so-called "Kia Boys"

The moniker is for a group of young men who provided a how-to guide to stealing the cars. And with a USB cable, someone can start up and drive off with your car.

The low-tech hack reportedly works on Hyundai models as well. The key is that the targeted makes and models only use keys.

This method does not work on push-start vehicles or those equipped with an immobilizer —a  device that keeps the engine from starting unless the right key is recognized.

While the Kia Boyz are said to be based in Milwaukee, the fruit of their low-life labor is being harvested right here in southeast Michigan, and the west side of the state as well.

"They left without a trace," said another victim.

This man who wanted to conceal his identity, says his Kia was stolen from his Grand Rapids home in July.

Police caught up with the thieves but they tried to get away and ending up crashing the car.

"I went to the dealership and I went to them and said what are you going to do about this situation? The dealer was like, there’s nothing really we can do," the man said.

FOX 2 reached out to the automaker for comment. It released the following statement:

"Kia America is aware of the rise in vehicle thefts of a subset of trim levels. All 2022 models and trims have an immobilizer applied either at the beginning of the year, or as a running change. All Kia vehicles for sale in the U.S. meet or exceed federal motor vehicle safety standards."

All of that means little to Latonia who had 2022 Kia. And while she has a rental car, her insurance will stop paying for it in 28 days. It may take 35 days before they settle her claim.

"I've got a rental and I appreciate that, but I need my car," she said.

Detroit police is advising Kia owners to park in well-lit areas if they cannot park in a garage - and they are advising a secondary alarm system.

FOX 2 spoke to some workers at a Kia dealership and they said they have about a dozen recovered vehicles in their shop right now that have to be repaired after being stolen.