Man uses smart phone app to steal Tesla from Mall of America

An alleged car thief can be seen arriving at the Mall of America on surveillance footage only minutes before using technology to steal a Tesla.

“I don’t think it’s that easy,” said John Marino, the owner of Trevls, a Tesla rental company. “I think this guy had a next level of information on how to do it."

Marino says the suspect, a 21-year-old man, was a regular at the Tesla rental company and had rented from them more than half a dozen times.

“We suspected it was him because he used to brag a lot about how much he knew about the car and its security, and this was somebody who had the wherewithal to make this happen,” Marino said.

Police say the man somehow manipulated the Tesla app to unlock and start the car, disabling the GPS before leaving town.

While the alleged thief may have been crafty, he couldn’t escape Tesla’s constant data collection. Every time he plugged into charge, they immediately knew his location.

“Tesla is not the car to steal,” said Marino. “The amount of data Tesla collects is actually kind of creepy."

The man was arrested near Waco, Texas just three days after taking the car. 

Computer forensics specialist Mark Lanterman says while he's been successful at hacking into a Tesla, he doesn’t believe that’s what happened here.

“What it sounds like this person may have done is convince Tesla to take the VIN number of that vehicle and add it to his Tesla account,” Lanterman explained. “By doing that, you can do that with a phone call. By doing that, you can now control the Tesla from an app on your phone."

This proves there may be downsides to our increasingly connected lives.