The world of car theft prevention has evolved significantly since the early days of Datadot and immobilisers (these days it’s Tesla sentry mode that makes the most headlines). But unfortunately car thieves’ processes have evolved, too.
In Canada, there’s growing concern over the number of car thefts where assailants have used Apple AirTags. For those not submerged in the Apple nexus, AirTags are a relatively new tracking device that Apple debuted earlier this year, as a convenient way to track things like luggage.
Evidently, they’re also good for thieves tracking cars they want to steal, with the York Regional Police recently issuing a public notice that these devices are being used to track high-end vehicles.
According to the statement, thieves place the AirTags in out of sight areas while desirable cars are parked in public places, with the AirTags leading to the car’s home address — allowing them to steal the car at night while the owner is sleeping.
While presumably most of these tags are attached underneath a car’s bodywork, some people have found tags sitting inside some of their car’s exterior fixtures, with one example being found in a pick-up’s exterior plug socket.
“Since September 2021, officers have investigated five incidents where suspects have placed small tracking devices on high-end vehicles so they can later locate and steal them,” says a statement from the York Regional Police.
“Brand name ‘air tags’ are placed in out-of-sight areas of the target vehicles when they are parked in public places like malls or parking lots. Thieves then track the targeted vehicles to the victim’s residence, where they are stolen from the driveway.”
Apple aren’t the only ones producing an item like this, with Tile and Samsung also releasing their own tracking tag products. These tags are capable of retaining tracking abilities over very significant distances, with AirTags capable of tracking items that are on the other side of the planet.
To its credit, Apple appears to be trying to foil the thieves using its technology maliciously. Built-in protections can send a ping to a person’s phone if Apple believes they’re being tracked by an AirTag unknowingly. Although this only works if the person sees the notifications.