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Apple AirTag stalking and tracking by criminals is an issue: here’s methods to stop it

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The Apple AirTag is popping out to be a boon to criminals. Here’s why, and a few ways to deal with unwanted tracking.

The coat-button-sized AirTag, announced in April of last 12 months, is a Bluetooth tracking device, designed to show you how to find keys, backpacks, wallets, devices, or any personal item you should track.  It tracks things using Apple’s crowdsourced Find My network, which, as of 2021, boasted about 1 billion devices worldwide. It requires iOS 14.5 and iPad iOS 14.5 or newer. 

AirTags will show you how to discover a lost item by showing you a map of the placement or by playing a sound. If you may have an iPhone 11 or later, you may locate the AirTag with Precision Finding, which can lead you right to your AirTag.

Here’s the issue

AirTags are good at what they’re designed to do. The issue is stalkers and thieves quickly figured this out too. And now a growing chorus of voices claim that Apple underestimated the risks of the device. 

Discussion of Apple AirTags by Washington Post reporter Geoff Fowler in San Francisco, California Monday, March 14, 2022.
(Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

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Reports show that AirTags are used increasingly for stalking. For instance, a Vice investigation revealed that out of a complete 150 police reports that mentioned AirTags from eight police departments over an 8-month period, there have been 50 cases through which women contacted police because they got notifications that they were being tracked by an AirTag they didn’t own. 

“Of those, 25 could discover a person of their lives—ex-partners, husbands, bosses—who they strongly suspected planted the AirTags on their cars to be able to follow and harass them,” Vice said. 

One other report earlier this 12 months shows how a stalker surreptitiously placed an AirTag in a supermodel’s coat, tracking her for five hours as she went from bar to bar and, later, as she walked home. 

And this recent law enforcement video spells out how criminals attach AirTags to vehicles, track the vehicles to the owner’s home, then steal the automotive on the criminal’s convenience. 

Methods to stop unwanted tracking

A boxed AirTag on display at the Apple Store George Street on April 30, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. Apple's latest accessory, the AirTag is a small device that helps people keep track of belongings, using Apple's Find My network to locate lost items like keys, wallet, or a bag. 

A boxed AirTag on display on the Apple Store George Street on April 30, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. Apple’s latest accessory, the AirTag is a small device that helps people keep track of belongings, using Apple’s Find My network to locate lost items like keys, wallet, or a bag. 
(Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)

Apple’s notification system that warns about unknown devices might be confusing since it’s meant to detect a wide range of devices.

The confusion comes while you’re attempting to determine if the device is unwanted – and potentially a threat – or simply an innocuous unknown device.

But assuming the worst, within the case of an unwanted AirTag, a pop-up notification should appear inside several hours in your iPhone that reads “AirTag Found Moving With You,” as Apple explains in a support page that covers unwanted tracking. “Find My” displays a map of where the AirTag has been observed with you.

Also, an unwanted AirTag placed in an item should begin to beep when that item is moved.  

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In its February update on AirTags and unwanted tracking Apple also said it’s going to add Precision Finding, which allows recipients of an unwanted tracking alert to locate an unknown AirTag with more accuracy if you may have an iPhone 11, iPhone 12, and iPhone 13. 

Apple has also released an app on Google Play called Tracker Detect for Android users. 

Third-party apps are also available that permit you discover Bluetooth devices in your area. (See MacWorld: Methods to find, block, and disable an unknown AirTag moving with you.) 

An Apple AirTag device during the Spring Loaded virtual product launch in Tiskilwa, Illinois, U.S., on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. 

An Apple AirTag device in the course of the Spring Loaded virtual product launch in Tiskilwa, Illinois, U.S., on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. 
(Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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Finally, if you happen to find the unwanted AirTag, you may fully disable it by removing the battery cover. This is completed by twisting counterclockwise on the back of the tracker after which taking the battery out.

Apple states that AirTags were designed to assist people locate their personal belongings – not to trace people or one other person’s property.

Within the February Apple statement Apple says “we…have seen reports of bad actors attempting to misuse AirTag for malicious or criminal purposes. Apple has been working closely with various safety groups and law enforcement agencies.”

Fox News has reached out to Apple for comment. 

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