AirTags harassment, thefts on the rise across the country: what you need to know

Strange beeping sounds and alerts on iPhones have kept some Americans on high alert for the past year and a half, trying to figure out why an unknown device is tracking their every move. It’s one of the latest crime trends in which tech-savvy criminals are taking advantage of carjackings and chases, prompting police departments across the country to warn the public to beware of the new tactic.

“In traditional stalking, you usually have people who have repeated or unwanted contact with the victim,” said Dearborn, Michigan, police Sgt. James Isaacs told Fox 2 earlier this year. “They are watching where they work, where they go to school, where they eat. Using an AirTag is another way for them to do this covertly.

Dearborn is among a number of police departments that have issued warnings since last year against criminals using Apple’s AirTag to kidnap or illegally track people.

Apple released AirTag in April 2021 as the latest way to find lost personal items like keys or purses, and called “Ping It. Find it.” AirTag owners can clip the small disc-shaped device to something they often misplace and simply ask Siri to track the AirTag, which has a built-in speaker that beeps when activated, or an iPhone to track its exact location. use the

Criminals are using Apple AirTag to steal and stalk people.
Christopher Sadowski

But criminals have turned to the device to stalk their exes or even plot to steal cars.

Last December, several Nashville women reported being followed by suspected criminals based on unknown devices placed in their cars.

“I was helping a friend move out of her apartment and my car trunk was open and it was unlocked and I was going in and out with her boxes and stuff,” Ellie Tindall told News 2 last year.

At the time, he said, he believed the suspects planted an AirTag in his car. He was alerted to trouble after returning home from helping a friend move, only to see an alert on his phone saying “an unknown accessory is following him.”

Air tag tracking.
Several people have signaled that they are being followed using devices installed in their cars.
Facebook/Susan O’Neill

“I went out to investigate because I saw on TikTok what these criminals were doing for robbery or sex trafficking. “When I got out to look for a tag, there were two hooded men waiting by my car, and when they saw me open the door with three men, they turned around and ran down the street,” Tindall said.

Another man in Nashville said he heard a ringing sound coming from inside his car in February. His BMW was then stolen, WSMV reported at the time.

The man’s car was eventually repossessed and the owner, Eric Johnson, decided to find out if the car had an AirTag and why the car was stolen. Johnson took the risky step of prying open the car door in search of the tiny device – then he found it on a small shelf inside the door.

“It was a great feeling to find him and get him out of the car,” Johnson said at the time.

Air tag tracking.
Police departments across the country are warning residents to be wary of AirTag surveillance.
Facebook/Susan O’Neill

It is not known whether AirTag has been used for carjacking, but similar incidents have occurred in other parts of the country and even abroad.

A Michigan man bought a Dodge muscle car last December, taking it out to run errands at the mall and for rides at a friend’s house.

“I had a notification on my phone when I went out and it said I was being tracked by an unknown AirTag,” John Nelson told Fox 2 last year.

Nelson says he connects his phone to the AirTag and makes a sound. That’s when he discovered someone had unscrewed the drain cover under his 392 Scat Pack 2018 Charger trunk and placed an AirTag.

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

The crime trend has even spread to Canada, where authorities in Toronto warned residents about the trend earlier this year.

“These little things are used to mark the vehicle. “Thieves are driving around and ‘shopping’ in parking lots and when they find a car they like, they tape it to the car or install it in some way,” said Toronto Constable Marco Riccardi. City News this summer.

For others, especially women, the use of AirTags by criminals was terrifying.

A Cincinnati police officer was sentenced to probation this fall after pleading guilty to stalking a woman. Darryl Tews placed an AirTag on the woman’s car and was able to track her for weeks without her knowledge, court documents say.

Last week, an Iowa man was arrested and charged after placing an AirTag on a woman’s car and following her. The victim in the case reportedly alerted AirTag by phone and found the device in a spare tire. According to WHO Des Moines, the victim then took the device to the West Des Moines Police Department.

The suspect, 63-year-old Carl Steven Schover, followed the device to the station and told officers he placed the device in the car of a woman he claimed to be his wife because he believed she was having an affair. A local news agency reported that at least three AirTags were found in the victim’s personal belongings.

Brooks Nader Airtag Satlking.
Swimsuit model Brooks Nader came forward last year about being harassed with an AirTag.

Shawver and the victim never had contact, court documents say, and the victim was prevented from contacting Shawver.

Swimsuit model Brooks Nader said she was followed by a stranger who slipped an AirTag into her shirt while in New York earlier this year. In January, the Philly Voice reported that another Philadelphia-area woman said going to the movies was terrifying when she got home and was warned on the phone that an “unknown accessory” was “moving around with you for a while.”

“Stalking and stalkerware existed before AirTags, but Apple has made it cheaper and easier than ever for abusers and attackers to track their targets,” Albert Fox Kahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Control Project, told Motherboard earlier this year. “Apple’s global network of devices gives AirTags the unique power to track around the world. Apple’s extensive marketing campaign helped highlight this type of technology to stalkers and abusers who would never have known about it.

Led by Apple Fox News Digital said on its website in February that the company had received “reports of bad actors attempting to misuse AirTag for malicious or criminal purposes” and that “individuals may receive unsolicited inbound surveillance alerts for good intentions.” published an updated post on additional safeguards. reasons.”

In addition to working with “various security groups,” Apple is also working with law enforcement agencies on crime-related issues surrounding the devices.

“Each AirTag has a unique serial number, and connected AirTags are associated with an Apple ID. Apple may provide paired account information in response to a subpoena or a valid law enforcement request. “We have successfully worked with them in cases where the information we provided was used to identify an AirTag to a criminal, who was subsequently apprehended and charged,” Apple said on its website.

Two women filed a lawsuit against Apple earlier this month, alleging that AirTags made it easier for them to stalk and harass them.

“What sets AirTag apart from any competing product is its unparalleled accuracy, ease of use (it fits within Apple’s existing product suite) and affordability,” the lawsuit says. “At just $29, it has become the weapon of choice for stalkers and abusers.”

One of the plaintiffs in the case said she discovered AirTags on her personal belongings months after her divorce from her husband. Another plaintiff, identified as Lauren Hughes, said he began stalking her after she broke up with the man. After blocking him and living in a hotel to stay safe and anonymous, he was alerted that AirTag was nearby.

“Furthermore, there is a gross disparity between the protections available to iOS/Apple users and those available to individuals with Android devices – making Android users virtually vulnerable to tracking/stalking with AirTag,” it said. in the statement of claim.

Apple told Fox News Digital that it would not comment on ongoing litigation when asked about the lawsuit.


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