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New York police warn of Apple AirTags being hidden on cars

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Posted at 2:55 PM, Dec 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-22 16:55:48-05

WEST SENECA, N.Y.  — Apple AirTags are small, quarter-like plastic and metal silver disks designed by Apple to attach to items so you can track them when they go missing.

But within the past month, two women have gone to the West Seneca Police Department after a message appeared on their phones saying an unknown accessory had been detected near them and could see their location.

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"It was moving with them. So typically that means it was in their vehicle, on their vehicle or maybe in their purse or something," West Seneca Police Lieutenant Jonathan Luterek said.

Michael McCartney, a cyber security expert who is a veteran member of the law enforcement community, said the chances of finding a tracking device like an Apple AirTag are slim.

"You can hide a quarter about anywhere on your car. It can connect to your smart vehicle. Most vehicles have built-in WiFi and built-in Bluetooth. The battery life lasts for almost a year or more," McCartney, the National Director of Cyber Security at Avalon, said.

West Seneca Police said they were able to find one of the AirTags.

"It was placed underneath the bumper, kind of inside the lip. You’d really have to look for it pretty hard to find. It’s not something you could conveniently check for," Luterek said.

Police said they hope to receive records from Apple to determine who the AirTag belongs to. Then they could face criminal charges.

"They could be charged with stalking. That evolved from Jackie’s Law, who was a resident of resident and who was a victim of domestic violence. It’s good that we have that law in place now because before, there was nothing we could charge them with for doing this," Luterek said.

But police could not locate the tracker on the other vehicle.

"It’s concerning. You think, are they being stalked? Is someone just trying to steal their car?" Luterek said.

Police and McCarthy said to contact police immediately if you get a notification that a tracking device is with you.

McCarthy said if you and/or police can't locate it through a visual inspection, try downloading a Bluetooth scanning tool on your smartphone.

"There are Bluetooth scanning tools you can download to your phone. It's kind of like on your phone when it tells you all the Wi-Fi hotspots near you you could theoretically connect to. It’s the same kind of thing. This kind of Bluetooth scanner could allow you to say, hey, there’s a Bluetooth device in here," McCarthy said.

McCarthy said you should contact Apple as well. According to Apple, the AirTag will start playing a sound after a while. McCarthy said you could also take one additional step to block the tracker from working.

"Disable Bluetooth on your phone and your car whenever you’re driving it because that seems to be the communication method preferred," McCarthy said.

Olivia Proia at WKBW first reported this story.