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More thieves are using high-tech electronic devices to break through the keyless-entry systems that lock up modern cars, the National Insurance Crime Bureau reports.

The thieves are using electronic "scanner boxes" that allow them mimic the signal emitted by key fobs that open car doors with the click of a button, the NICB says.

Once inside, thieves can steal personal items, the investigative arm of the insurance industry says.

"Our law enforcement partners tell us they are seeing this type of criminal activity and have recovered some of the illegal devices," NICB CEO Joe Wehrle says in a statement. "And unfortunately, some of these devices are available on the Internet."

The phenomenon is coming on fast. It was only last year that police in Long Beach, Calif., asked for the public's help trying to identify three suspects wanted in connection with a series of auto burglaries. At the time, they used what police called "unknown technology" to gain entry to cars without the keys. Apparently now, it's known.

To protect themselves, consumers should take the usual precautions, like making sure they don't leave valuables in sight within their cars.

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