Technology

Police warn against using Apple AirTags to track cars and chase victims

For as little as $29, you can buy an Apple AirTag to keep track of important things — like your keys, bike, or even your car if they get lost in a parking garage. But criminals take advantage of this cheap tracker and use it to track down which cars they want to steal or worse. According to police in Dearborn, they are seeing an increase in people using cheap gadgets to stalk someone else.

Apple AirTag is a device created to help people keep track of misplaced items. But the seemingly harmless tool is used by some to track people and steal cars. As authorities investigate these incidents, the devices raise privacy and security concerns.

What is the Apple AirTag?

The Apple AirTag is a coin-sized device used to help people locate personal items. AirTags can be attached to a key or a backpack and consumers can keep track of their belongings with relative ease.

AirTags requires the following Apple products to work: iPhone SE, iPhone 6s or later, iPod touch with iOS 14.5, iPad Pro, iPad, iPad Air 2 or later, iPad mini 4, or later iPhone with iOS 14.5.

The starting price for AirTags is $29 for the base model. More expensive versions of the device are available in the form of AirTag Hermès, with prices ranging from $299 to $449.

Use Apple AirTags to hunt down

Over the past few months, more and more people have reported being tracked by someone with an Apple AirTag that was inadvertently placed on their belongings, including their cars. A man from Novi FOX 2 told in December that he was alerted to AirTag on a 392 Scat Pack 2018 Dodge Charger.

“If they want it bad enough, they’ll take it,” said John Nelson.

But Dearborn Police now say it’s not just someone trying to steal a car. Sgt. Since the fall of 2021, James Isaacs said, his department has seen an increase in the number of people reporting being stalked.

“In the case of traditional stalking, you usually have people who contact or spam the victim frequently. They track them where they work, where they go to school, and where they eat. Using AirTag is just another way for them to do it in a more discreet way. ‘ said Isaac.

Related: Apple AirTags: How the device works and why it raises security concerns

As his department sees more reports, the crime of stalking someone with a GPS device on or with their car isn’t new. New is the affordability of AirTags.

“People have been using GPS trackers to stalk and harass people for a long time. I think the reason why this device is increasingly coming out now is, because of the cost, the cost is much lower than the traditional GPS trackers that people use so, the accessibility is much higher,” he said Isaac.

How does Apple AirTags work

Apple AirTags are created to prevent unwanted tracking. According to Apple’s website, AirTag will send a Bluetooth signal that is detected by devices in “Find My network”. These devices send the AirTag to iCloud. Apple users can visit “Find My app” and see it on the map.

It should actually help you keep track of some important things – like your car keys or your teenage driver.

“Its intended purpose, through Apple, is to use Apple AirTags to keep track of things that are valuable to you. Whether it’s your car keys, your wallet, or even your vehicle — that way, if it’s stolen, they can find it much faster,” Isaac said.

The owner of the AirTag will be able to find exactly where the device is using the “Find My” function of their iOS device.

“It will report that the Bluetooth signal is back in iCloud. And then the registered owner can pull up Find my iPhone app on their device, look at it and see their device’s location live. That way they can then use that to keep track of where the AirTag is in and where the car is,” he said. Isaacs.

How to find Apple AirTag

If someone places an AirTag on your car or bag, iOS users will receive a notification that an unknown AirTag is tracking them.

“It will alert you on your phone that AirTag has been traveling with you. Then, on your phone, once you receive the alert, you will be able to see how long it has been traveling with you, the route it has taken you, and then it will also give you the device serial number, which is what we need in law enforcement “.

But this may make some people think that they are not protected, especially if you have Android. However, Apple has thought about that, too.

“Android users can download an app called Tracker Detect from the Google Play Store. This app was specifically designed by Apple. It works the same way as the Find My app in the Apple Store. It will also alert you if you have an Android device, if There’s an Apple AirTag or other device that’s following you,” Isaacs said.

Places to check for hidden AirTags are pockets, bags, luggage, behind license plates, and in wheel wells or crevices in a vehicle.

Where are AirTags located?

AirTags are so popular because of their price tag. It’s only $29 for one or $100 for four. It’s also quite small – a little bigger than a quarter – and that makes it easy to hide and hard to spot, even if you get a notification being tracked.

“We found it between license plates and the actual car. We found it between the seats. We found it under the seats, and we found it in people’s personal effects, like their bags. It’s small, a little bigger than a quarter, and it can fit just about anywhere.”

What to do if you find an Apple AirTag

If you get a notification on your device that you are being tracked by a device you are not familiar with, call the police.

When you get this notification, open it and you will see the serial number. Prepare to give this information to the police as they will need to track down the owner.

“When someone hands the Apple AirTag to us, we can get the serial number from them and then we can send a search warrant to Apple, request the registered owner’s information and then get that information back,” Isaacs said.

Is it illegal to put an Apple AirTag on a car?

In Michigan, there is a law that makes it illegal for someone to inadvertently track another person using a GPS tracker.

This does not apply to private investigators or law enforcement agencies with appropriate legal authority.

More Apple AirTags are tagged

Last week, Isaac said, they only had four cases of people being traced without their knowledge – but that’s only in Dearborn. He said departments everywhere are seeing more cases.

“I’ve spoken with several officers from other agencies who see this as well. Really, the only way to stop it is through information to the public. Making them aware of the pattern of crime that is happening so that they are more aware of their surroundings to notify us within law enforcement. We will always have these issues when It’s about technology and criminals finding ways to outrageously use it, but making people aware is the best way to stop that,” Isaacs said.

Dearborn is now alerting more people in the city about criminals planting the devices and launching a PSA campaign.

“We want to be as transparent as possible with all of our citizens to ensure that they get information that may affect their lives as quickly as possible. And with the increase we see in the use of these things, we wanted to make sure that information gets to them so that they are aware of it. If they receive With an alert on their phone that one of these AirTags may be following them, immediately call 911, especially if they think so, Isaac said.

What cars often have Apple AirTags?

For whatever reason, Isaac said Dodge Chargers are among the most frequently tagged AirTags.

“I don’t know what makes it so attractive, other than that it’s so easy to steal now.”

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