Earlier this month, Michael Pucci was walking toward his car on his way to work like he did every morning when he noticed his parking lot looked different.
“I checked and my car isn’t there,” he said.
In its place only broken glass remained.
“I just stood there speechless, trying to take it all in,” he said.
His neighbor’s security cameras captured what had happened just hours earlier. The video shows it was just after 3 a.m. on October 17th. The video shows Michael’s car lights turning on just before someone drives away in it.
“I’ve never had a car stolen in my life,” he said.
Michael called Hollywood police and told the officer who responded that his 2017 Hyundai Elantra had been stolen. He said the officer told him about a disturbing trend.
“And then he sent me a text message with a link,” Michael said. “It’s like a smash and grab attack and it happens very quickly.”
Michael said that was the first time he had heard of the viral social media challenge to steal certain models of Hyundai and Kia vehicles that do not come with an immobilizer.
This is a trend that NBC Responds units across the country have been tracking in recent years following an increase in thefts involving these vehicles.
The Hollywood police are investigating Michael’s case.
“We do not know if this particular car is related to this challenge,” said Hollywood Police spokeswoman Deanna Bettineschi.
The department encourages car owners to be proactive.
“They can contact their dealer and the dealer can offer them a software upgrade,” Bettineschi said.
Earlier this year, Hyundai and Kia launched a service campaign targeting millions of vehicles that lack the safety device. Using the VIN number on Michael’s car, NBC6 checked Responds online and found that it was among the cars eligible for the upgrade.
“Unfortunately my car was stolen first,” Michael said.
His car was found a few days after it was stolen. He shared images he took in an impound parking lot that showed the car badly damaged.
“It wasn’t drivable,” Michael said. “It just looked really bad.”
In an email, Hyundai told NBC6 that its service campaign was “well promoted” and that the company is notifying customers by mail. It goes on to say that Hyundai is committed to helping “… affected customers and communities.” Kia said more than 830,000 vehicles nationwide have received the software upgrade and more than 280,000 steering wheel locks have been distributed.
Michael is still trying to understand why his car was so badly damaged.
“I depended on my car to be as safe as I thought it would be,” he said.
Hyundai said immobilizers will be standard on all of the company’s vehicles starting November 2021.