More than nine out of 10 vans stolen last year were taken without the owners’ keys, according to vehicle tracking firm Tracker.

Tracker said keyless theft accounted for 92% of the LCVs it recovered in 2019, an increase of 44% in three years, with the Ford Transit the most commonly stolen brand name.

“Keyless entry technology has now been widely adopted in the LCV market, and this is evident in the fact that last year, the majority of LCVs were being stolen without the owner’s keys,” said Clive Wain, head of Police Liaison at Tracker.

“Today’s tech-savvy criminals are commonly using relay-attack tools that can activate a van key fob remotely, fooling the system into unlocking the doors and starting the engine.”

Wain went on to warn operators that van theft goes beyond the loss of the vehicle and that victims should also consider the cost of replacing tools and a likely rise in insurance premiums.

Sole traders and small businesses in particular could also suffer a loss in productivity and damage to the reputation of their brand if the standard of their customer service dips following the theft of a van and its contents, Tracker points out.

Wain added: “It is worth remembering it’s not just about protecting your van from being stolen but safeguarding your business too.

“Ideally tools should be removed from vehicles and stored securely elsewhere overnight, or within a secure box fixed inside the van.

“Technology is just one part of vehicle security, more vigilance needs to be taken across the board to ensure all businesses are protecting their livelihoods.”

Tracker told What Van? it is currently “doing some number crunching” to see whether there has been any change in van-theft patterns during the coronavirus crisis, which has led to a sharp fall in road traffic resulting in more vehicles being left unattended outside owners’ homes or at work sites.