Police say car thieves are using Apple AirTags to target vehicles

As auto theft continues to rise in Toronto and other cities in the Greater Toronto Area, thieves are finding new ways to target cars and chase them away without owners noticing.

The latest unhealthy trend: sticking an AirTag on the targeted vehicle and stealing it later when no one is looking. These AirTags are relatively inexpensive and allow thieves to be discreet in tracking and stealing vehicles.

Police in Toronto and other cities in the region have warned of an escalation in incidents of carjackings in recent months. Armed carjackings have increased, including the recent high-profile case involving Maple Leafs player Mitch Marner.

To better understand how AirTags are used in car thefts, the Star spoke with Constable Marco Ricciardi of the 22nd Toronto Police Division about the issue and what car owners can do to better protect their vehicles.

« Because the cost of a used car is going up… there’s a low supply and high demand for cars, so they’re stolen mainly to be shipped overseas, » Ricciardi said.

Car thieves and tracking devices

Before tech giants Apple and Samsung offered Bluetooth-enabled AirTags and SmartTags respectively, people attached devices like Tile and TrackR to various items like laptops, keys, or wallets in order to track them. they were lost or misplaced. Through crowdsourcing, you would need the Tile app to run in the background in order to locate the missing item that the tracker is on.

With the new AirTags and SmartTags however, Apple and Samsung have integrated the information into the operating system in a way that allows it to be sent via Bluetooth to the tracking device owner’s phone, so they can see the location of the missing element. without having to get too close.

« If I throw an AirTag in your backpack and you’re traveling in Europe, it’s going to come back to me once you land and have network connectivity, saying ‘hey, I’m here in France or Italy’, Ricciardi said.

How AirTags are used by thieves

Ricciardi said these AirTags are magnetic on one side and can be attached to various metal points on the vehicle. From what police have noticed, thieves are scouring parking lots looking for favorite vehicles to steal.

Ricciardi warns drivers to pay close attention to their vehicles, as thieves have been known to stick AirTags on a trailer hitch receiver, behind the license plate or even in the gas tank cap area – anywhere it won’t fall.

On their own devices with Apple IDs, thieves can track the vehicle they tagged for more than 24 hours.

AirTags and trackers are easily accessible

Ricciardi said these AirTags are available at tech stores such as Best Buy and Apple Stores. They can also be purchased online at Amazon.

Prices range from $40 each or $130 for four of them, Ricciardi said, and their batteries can last six months to a year.

How drivers can protect themselves and their vehicles

Smartphone users can turn on their location services to receive a notification if there’s an AirTag or SmartTag nearby, Ricciardi said.

If you find the device stuck somewhere on your vehicle, Ricciardi says the best thing to do is call the police immediately so they can possibly get fingerprint information to find out who installed it there. down. You can also physically disable the device and prevent the potential thief from knowing where the vehicle is. Ricciardi says the device contains a small watch battery that can be removed.

Another option is to equip your vehicle with your own AirTag. Ricciardi said he bought and installed the AirTag on his own truck, so he could track it via his iPhone and give himself a chance to know its location if stolen.

He personally knows of at least three recent incidents where people had their cars stolen from driveways, but police were able to help recover them fairly quickly with the installation of AirTags.

« Because it’s easy for thieves to get it, it’s also easy for us to use it to protect ourselves, » he said.

« It doesn’t stop your car from being stolen, but it will help you and us get it back. »


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