Youngstown Police have posted a public service safety announcement for Kia and Hyundai owners, urging owners of certain cars to get a steering wheel lock to avoid an uptick in thefts.  

The continued uptick in stolen cars nationwide and statewide is a result of a security flaw that's been exploited on social media in recent years.

Thefts of affected models were 14 times more frequent in Ohio during the second half of 2022 compared to 2020, according to Matt Moore, Senior Vice President of Highway Loss Data Institute. 

Those affected are owners of any 2011 through 2021 Kia model that uses a steel key to operate the ignition, as well as over a dozen Hyundai models.

YPD said the Hyundai Palisade, Elantra, Sonata, Velostar, Venue, Tona, Tuscan and Sante Fe models are the most affected. 

The core of the issue stems from the way the ignitions were created under Kia and Hyundai, lacking immobilizers, which became common among most cars as of 2015. 

Kia and Hyundai have since launched a free software upgrade in early 2023 for all affected models, but Kia told 21 News only 25% of all affected Kia owners have gotten the new software.

According to the Youngstown Police Department's Facebook, the city and its surrounding areas have been experiencing a rise in thefts involving Kia and Hyundai vehicles. 

The department attributes it to a popular TikTok challenge popularized by the group known as "The Kia Boys," which spurred a nationwide auto theft issue. 

Officers and Moore recommend using a steering wheel lock to prevent thefts, on top of getting the software update because the steering wheel lock will be a "visual deterrent" to potential thieves since the models impacted have become targets, even if someone already has a software update. 

Kia directed affected owners to access information here to get a free software upgrade, or a steering wheel lock at no charge if owners are not eligible for the software update.  Hyundai directs customers to visit this website also dedicated to assisting with the issue.