Bad Guys Are Just Using Them For Bad Reasons – CBS Philly

RADNOR, Pa. (CBS) — Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, less than two weeks ago, issued a warning about a rise in Apple AirTag crimes. Authorities say criminals are using the small tracking devices to steal cars and even stalk their victims.

Radnor Township police are looking into several suspicious incidents just this year.

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It’s a good idea intended to make lives easier — helping people find their phone, keys and even their furry friend — but this quarter-sized location tracking device may have already outpaced its consequences, leaving you and your family exposed.

“Unfortunately, bad guys are just using them for bad reasons,” Radnor Township Det. TJ Schreiber said.

Schreiber is warning of an alarming trend of Apple AirTag crimes, where thieves hide the devices on a car or in someone’s purse or backpack, then track their victims, seeking to steal from or stalk their targets.

“We had a family that was traveling over the holidays between Christmas and New Year’s park their car at short-term parking at Philadelphia International Airport,” Schreiber said. “When they arrived home here in Radnor Township, one of the family members got an alert on their iPhone that a tracking device had been located near them.”

Experts say it’s no surprise these tags are becoming more prevalent.

“We’ve seen this kick up the end of ’21, now into ’22,” Schreiber said.

They’re relatively inexpensive — about $25 each — but highly accurate.

“Almost to the millimeter where these things are being tracked,” Schreiber said.

Eyewitness News wanted to test out how it works. We put an AirTag in a reporter’s pocket and drove a half-mile loop around police headquarters. Within a couple of minutes, Schreiber could see every turn we made.

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“I just pinged you on Lancaster Avenue,” he said.

In a statement, Apple says, “We take customer safety very seriously. AirTag is designed with a set of proactive features to discourage unwanted tracking that both inform users if an unknown AirTag might be with them, and deter bad actors from using an AirTag for nefarious purposes.”

While Apple devices automatically send a notification — “an AirTag found moving with you” — Android products need a third-party app, such as Tracker Detect, to get the same alert. Both can also ping that device to help you find it.

What should someone do if they think they’re being tracked?

First, the best thing is actually to do nothing — do not deactivate any suspicious tag.

“Once you disable it, there’s some information that we will never be able to get,” Schreiber said.

Instead, experts say to drive to a common, well-lit area such as a grocery store and call the police. Officers will help find the tag and get valuable information like a serial number from the device.

“Don’t overlook it, don’t think it’s not a big deal, especially if you have kids,” Schreiber said.

Experts also note while these crimes are scary, the sheer existence of the technology is not just an advantage for the crooks but also the cops.

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“You know what, we may actually catch you using it too,” Schreiber said.

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