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What is the Kia Challenge on TikTok?

A viral challenge across TikTok and YouTube has led to a spike in thefts of Kia and Hyundai models throughout the U.S.

The "Kia Challenge" shows social media users how to steal certain Kia and Hyundai models by simply removing the plastic cowl under the steering column and using a USB cable.

The issue has become particularly prevalent in Milwaukee, WI, where there is a group of young teenagers known as the "Kia Boys" who have become notorious for stealing cars and taking them on dangerous joyrides.

It’s not just in Milwaukee where car thefts have surged though. In St. Petersburg, FL, the police department said 23 of the 56 cars stolen on local streets since July 11 have been Kia and Hyundai models model year 2021 and older. Writing on Twitter, authorities encouraged Hyundai and Kia owners to be cautious.

“Anyone with a Kia/Hyundai that uses a key, please #lockitup,” it wrote.

Speaking with the Tampa Bay Times, police said Kia models produced from 2011 and 2012 and Hyundai models from 2015 to 2021 have a vulnerability that means the ignition can be easily bypassed. Most of the individuals stealing Kia and Hyundai models are aged between 14 and 17.

St. Petersburg Police Department Sgt. Cody Lance said the majority of the cars stolen are unlocked and encouraged owners to always lock their vehicles. He also encouraged the use of steering wheel locks and said parking vulnerable Hyundai and Kia models behind other vehicles can make them more difficult to steal.

The trend is spreading across the country. Authorities in St. Paul, MN, have reported a more than 1,300% increase in Kia thefts from last year and an 854% increase in stolen Hyundais. In Grand Rapids, MI, Hyundai and Kia models also made up roughly 45% of the city’s auto thefts in June. Spikes in thefts have also been reported in St. Louis, Memphis, Cincinnati and Columbus.

The two car manufacturers said they were aware of the increase in thefts and noted all of their current models are fitted with engine immobilizers.

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