Criminals using air tags to track vehicles and people in national crime trend

Tech experts say we should pay attention to alerts on our phones
Criminals using air tags to track vehicles and people in national crime trend
Posted at 5:41 AM, Feb 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-01 09:26:17-05

From Apple's Air Tag to other quarter-sized GPS trackers, there are many devices out there to help you find your phone, keys, and wallet should they disappear. But News5 is finding criminals are using this technology to track vehicles and even stalk people.

Our research found cases nationwide where people are attaching these small devices to people's cars in order to track their location. Now, law enforcement agencies across the country are investigating theft and stalking cases. So, we're showing you what to look out for and how to make sure you stay safe.

"We've all experienced the panic of losing your keys, the panic of losing your wallet, or losing your purse and these devices were designed to solve a problem that we've all faced," said Dr. Erik Huffman a top cybersecurity researcher in the Pikes Peak Region.

You can get four of these Apple Air Tags for about $100, or one for less than $30. The technology utilizes Apple iPhone networks to locate the tags. Stories of criminals sticking them on cars and even people are starting to emerge.

"It says right here it was first seen with us at 9:11 p.m. which we were in Walmart at that time," said Michigan resident Emily Holman.

Holman says she got an alert on her phone letting her know an unknown accessory was linked to her iPhone's network and could see her location.

"I am scared a little bit and there's like a button you can click on that shows the whole way we took from Walmart-back here to my house," said the 22-year-old Michigander.

In addition to this case, a woman in Florida called police after finding an Apple Air Tag hidden under a panel in the back of her new SUV, secured with velcro.

She says she became suspicious after her babysitter said she was getting alerted to the device through the "Find My Phone" app.

"I had never heard of them, or seen it before," said Alexis. "We couldn't find it anywhere inside the house and we realized we were inside my vehicle together."

Alexis says it was a wake up call for her.

"It's just a lesson to me to always lock my car," said Alexis.

Cybersecurity expert Dr. Huffman says we can learn from these situations.

"You will get an alert on your phone that says an Air Tag has been following you for a decent amount of time. So that particular alert, do not ignore that alert," said Dr. Huffman.

You can also use your phone to play a tone to help you find the Air Tag.

"Just keep tapping it, keep tapping it until you hear it. Then follow that sound," said Dr. Huffman.

Investigators say you should look through all of your pockets and bags-and check the car too, especially in hidden places like under the car or in the gas cap.

"Find it, leave it, call law enforcement so they can find out who this air tag belongs to and why was it there," said Dr. Huffman.

News5 spoke with both the Colorado Springs and Pueblo police departments about this disturbing trend. They both say it's not something they've seen locally just yet, but urge people to contact law enforcement if something needs investigating.