The ‘Kia Boys’: How A Dangerous Social Media Trend Lead to Numerous Car Thefts


Megan McKnight

A USB cord, a common household item, can be used to steal a Kia or Hyundai vehicle, a method popularized by the “Kia Boys”.

Megan McKnight, Copy Editor

A recent epidemic of teens stealing Kia and Hyundai vehicles found its way to the Quad Cities due to the rising popularity of “Kia Boys,” a juvenile social media group. Using just a screwdriver and a USB cord, these thieves take advantage of a manufacturing error that leaves specific models of these brands vulnerable. The simplicity of the theft makes it easily accessible to a younger audience.

Viral videos on social media showed teenagers breaking a window or prying open a door to enter a locked Kia. Then, they popped off a plastic cover surrounding the ignition with a flathead screwdriver and started the car using a USB cord to turn on the ignition. This allowed them to silently drive away, often before the owner even realized their car was missing. 

Kia and Hyundai cars also lack an immobilization system, a system that prevents potential thieves from starting a car without the matching key. Because this program is absent in the newer Kia and Hyundai models, thieves usually drive away unnoticed, making it more difficult to track and recover the stolen vehicle.

Even when the cars are recovered and returned to their owners by the police, they are often found in rough shape. Once they have stolen a vehicle, many Kia Boys take the car for a joyride, leaving both interior and exterior damage. 

In the Quad Cities, this trend is causing a rapid increase in car thefts. “Currently for just 2023 we have had around 100 vehicle thefts in the QC and about 40 of the vehicles are either Kia or Hyundai,” stated Deputy Jamey Fah of the Bettendorf Police Department. 

Due to the rising popularity of this “trend”, many teens and young adults feel that stealing these vehicles is not a serious crime, despite potential severe legal consequences. “You only gonna do like three weeks, it’s a misdemeanor,” stated one self proclaimed “Kia Boy” in a YouTube documentary created by user Tommy G. 

While the legal punishment for car theft varies from state to state, car thefts in Iowa are considered theft in the first degree due to the fact that the value of the cars being stolen is over $10,000. This type of crime is considered a Class C felony, and can result in a large fine or a 10 year prison sentence. And in Illinois, thieves can face a fine of up to $25,000 and three to seven years in prison.

This trend is not only illegal, but also dangerous. In late 2022, four teens were killed with one injured when the group crashed a stolen Kia in Buffalo, New York. All six teens in the group  were ejected from the car, and the driver, a 16 year old high school student, had to wear an ankle bracelet and abide by a curfew before his trial due to being considered a flight risk. The police believe this theft is linked to the “Kia Boys” trend, much like those occurring in the Quad Cities.

Kia America released a statement regarding the crash in Buffalo, in which they expressed sympathy for the families of the teens involved and acknowledged their dangerous manufacturing flaw. “While no car can be made completely theft-proof, Kia America has pledged to work closely with local law enforcement in their fight by providing, at no cost, steering wheel locks as an optional safeguard to concerned owners of steel key-operated Kia vehicles,” stated the company.

However, this isn’t the only time car theft has become a trend. According to the Milwaukee Police Department, there were 8,735 auto thefts in the city in 2022, and 66% of the car thefts in 2021 involved a Kia or Hyundai model. Milwaukee is also the birthplace of the “Kia Boys” trend, which has rapidly spread across the Midwest and, later, to the whole country. 

Social media trends can be extremely dangerous, especially for teenagers. Fah has seen the negative effects of social media trends on teens firsthand. “Last year we spent a lot of time and energy and expense at PV with the Devious Licks trend. … In speaking with individuals who were caught last year, almost all stated they ‘just did it to post online’ they had no other reason for their destructive behavior,” stated Fah, referring to a popular trend in 2022 where teens would steal various appliances from their school or place of work.

As teens scroll through social media, many of the trends they see can seem lighthearted and even humorous. However, it’s important to remember that many of these trends can have dangerous, life-altering consequences. Before trying any social media trend, it’s important to consider the real-world damage it can cause, especially when it can result in criminal punishment.