When Apple announced it was entering the “help me find my stuff” market with its innovative AirTags in 2021, it was seen as a solution to a long-standing problem. AirTags work by using Apple’s own fleet of devices to help locate your items with an improvement in accuracy. Unfortunately, AirTags are now also being used for more unseemly purposes. Thus far, Apple’s button-shape location trackers are being utilized to steal cars and track people without their knowledge. As a result, we have taken the time to research how Apple AirTags and car theft go hand-in-hand.
How do Apple AirTags work?
AirTags are small keyring-sized discs that attach to your bag or keys to find them if they go missing. AirTags are a part of Apple’s “Find My” network. This allows you to track your devices and share their location with friends. According to Apple’s website, AirTags send out a secure Bluetooth signal that your iPhone detects or any nearby devices on the Find My network. Your iPhone then sends your AirTag’s location to iCloud. After that, the AirTag is then visible on the Find My app. According to Apple’s website, “The whole process is anonymous and encrypted to protect your privacy.”
In addition, the site claims you don’t need to worry about your tag’s battery life. Why? It only needs a replacement after a year’s time. There are also speakers on your AirTag to play a locating sound. This useful technology, however, is ripe for abuse. Criminals can place them inside your car’s trailer hitch, the gas tank or in the front grill of your vehicle. Thieves will then use them to track you using a paired iPhone. Finally, they can track you to a location suitable for them to steal your vehicle once you walk away. In other cases, they may wait until nightfall while you are asleep. This is one of the many reasons why Apple AirTags and car theft work so well together.
Apple AirTags and car theft: A criminal’s new favorite tool
Toronto Police warns car owners across the city amidst a shocking rise in carjackings. The latest string of incidents happening over a four hour period in Scarborough. Thieves are utilizing Apple AirTags by placing the small button-like device on cars in parking lots. Afterwards, they track where the vehicle ultimately ends up. While original reports of this type of activity emanated from Canada, the practice has now made its way stateside. The latest account comes from a town just outside of Detroit, Michigan.
Investigators at the York Regional Police Auto/Cargo Theft Unit say these thieves often have involvement in crime. After tagging the car with the device, they then track that car to its owner’s home at night. The maximum Bluetooth range for the AirTag is approximately 100 metres, so they are likely able to remain trackable to at least that distance. Then, criminals will use tools, like screwdrivers or Slim Jims, to get into the vehicles through one of the front doors, making sure not to set off the car alarm.
Just since September, York Regional Police officers have been investigating incidents in which the $39 devices are being put in out-of-sight areas of the target vehicles. Carjackers are using this technique “throughout the GTA,” but have partly honed in on Aurora. This is possibly because the town of about 62,000 reports an average household income of $150,000 — almost triple the national average. This makes it more likely the residents own a high-end vehicle.
To learn more about how thieves can utilize this new technology to steal your vehicle, click here.
Dedicated task force to address surge in carjackings
There have been over 90 carjackings to date compared to only 21 at this time in 2021. The total number of carjackings in 2022 has almost reached the 2021 total of 103. This prompts a Toronto police announcement that it would be redeploying additional officers. These officers will comprise a new team to address a recent crime spree of armed carjackings. Police Chief James Ramer says the police force reallocated approximately $2.3 million to assemble an “Organized Crime Investigative Support Team”. This team will begin to patrol the streets this week.
There are reports that the team will ease the burden of Toronto police by focusing on citywide major crime activity. Where the investigative scope exceeds the resources of local division, it will assist in tracking down organized crime operating in the GTA. Their portfolio will include carjackings, auto thefts, kidnappings and other crime that falls outside the mandate of the other investigative units in Toronto.
@rianmileti #apple #police 👉 @rianmileti ♬ original sound – Rian Mileti
What to do if you find Apple AirTags on your vehicle
If you own an iPhone
Should you get an alert warning that an AirTag has been detected and there isn’t a logical explanation for it, police recommend contacting them right away. “If you find one of these [AirTags] on your vehicle, I recommend contacting your local police department, and the officers will come and seize it,” says Constable Marco Ricciardi of the Toronto Police Force. “The plastic and shiny part, we might get fingerprints and know who has been putting this on your car.” Apple says if an AirTag is nearby, your iPhone can lead you directly to it with “Precision Finding,” compatible with iPhone 11 and up.
If you don’t have an iPhone
For those of us that do not have an iPhone, we may never realize that we are being tracked with an AirTag. To rectify this problem, Apple is releasing an Android app called Tracker Detect, that will notify you of an AirTag in your proximity for more than 20 minutes. With the app, non-iPhone users can scan the area to see if any AirTags are put in a pocket or purse — or, in this case, attached to a car. After that 20-minute period, the app will pick up the device because of its Bluetooth frequency. You can then zone in on the tag and locate it.
Disabling an AirTag
The best way to disable Apple AirTags is to remove the battery. To do this, flip the AirTag so the metallic side with the Apple logo is facing you. Press down on the logo and turn counterclockwise. Now you will be able to remove the cover and pop out that battery. Apple’s support page for the AirTag suggests reaching out to the police if you believe you are in a dangerous situation. “If you feel your safety is at risk, contact your local law enforcement, who can work with Apple to request information in relation to the item. You might need to provide the AirTag, AirPods, Find My network accessory, and the device’s serial number.” Remember, Apple AirTags and car theft are a perfect pairing.
How to prevent your vehicle from being tracked
There are several steps you can take to ensure that your car is not a target and to protect yourself in the scenario that you are:
- If possible, park the vehicle in a garage that locks. Most vehicles are stolen from a driveway.
- Use a steering wheel lock. It will also act as a visible deterrent!
- Purchase a quality video surveillance system.
- Owners of a Lexus S350, Ford F150, Toyota Highlander or Honda C-RV should be ultra-vigilant.
- Inspect the vehicle regularly and report any suspicious tracking devices.
- Invest in an OBD blocker: These are designed to block unauthorized communication through the OBD port to your vehicle. This helps prevent key reprogramming or other activities.
Note: An OBD1 connects to the console of a car, while OBD2 remotely connects to the vehicle.
- Entirely hide your vehicle Identification Number (VIN) from sight. A VIN is widely known as your car’s fingerprint, as the 17-number code provides valuable information about its manufacturer, model, model year, make, equipment and class.
Being able to keep track of our items is important. We should, however, make sure that we take precautions to ensure that we are not putting ourselves unknowingly at risk by employing new technologies. Speak with one of our isure representatives to learn more about how we can help you secure the best coverage possible! If you have any more questions regarding Apple AirTags and car theft in your area, call your local police department.