Thieves in Canada have apparently found an unintended and novel use for Apple’s AirTag locator devices. They use them to track cars they’d like to steal.
A news release from the Ontario-area York Regional Police outlines a new method investigators said thieves now use to track down and steal high-end vehicles. They stick an AirTag somewhere on a car they find in a public place. Then they use the device’s location tracking capabilities to find that car later, usually at the victim’s residence, and steal it.
New-fangled tracking, regular old car theft
So the tracking is high-tech, but the stealing itself relies on conventional methods. Once they find the car, thieves break in and make off with it using typical tools of the trade. They can reset the car to factory settings and use a fake key, for example.
In the past couple of months, York Region police officers have investigated five incidents where suspects used AirTags to take high-end vehicles.
Thieves target valuable vehicles in public places, like street parking and parking lots. They place an AirTag in an out-of-sight area on the vehicle — such as in a tow hitch or fuel cap — so the owner is unlikely to notice it.
VEHICLE THEFT WARNING AND PREVENTION TIPS
Investigators with the York Regional Police Auto/Cargo Theft Unit are advising residents they have identified a new method being used by thieves to track and steal high-end vehicles across York Region.https://t.co/CTtNAEsEQT pic.twitter.com/yOOqVqnuKO
— York Regional Police (@YRP) December 2, 2021
Apple offers anti-tracking features that alert users when a nearby AirTag is tracking their location. Thieves have no way to disable that, either. But not all victims receive or act on the notification. And not all of them even have an iPhone or other Apple device.
The problem is expected to grow
The York Regional Police have linked AirTags to just five thefts in about two months, but they see it as an increasing risk. Across the region, more than 2,000 vehicles have been stolen in the past year. Police recovered about 350 vehicles and arrested about 100 people.
And AirTag tracking of vehicles — not to mention other items targeted for theft — is probably going on in other places around the world.
Police urge car owners take preventive measures. They should park in a locked garage if possible. The can block their car in with other vehicles in an open driveway. They can use a steering-wheel club as a deterrent and lock their car’s data port, too. And they should inspect their vehicle regularly for trackers — especially if they receive an unknown AirTag notification.