Criminals have found a new way to stalk victims with Apple device, police warn

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Cops are warning consumers that the otherwise benign and handy Apple AirTag product can be planted by stalkers, car thieves, follow-home robbers, or other wrongdoers in what might possibly become a nationwide crime trend.

Selling for $29 each and about the size of a quarter, Apple describes its homing-beacon-like device as “a supereasy way to keep track of your stuff. Attach one to your keys, slip another in your backpack. And just like that, they’re on your radar in the Find My app, where you can also track down your Apple devices and keep up with friends and family.”

Obviously, the ability to retrieve belongings, especially keys, amidst a typically hectic and distraction-filled lifestyle, when necessary, is a plus. Or maybe even locating your own car.

The challenge when it comes to personal safety apparently is that the tag allegedly pings any nearby iPhone (Phone 11 or newer) that has the “Find My” app installed.

“An app named ‘Find My’ on iPhones tracks how far away the tags are and displays a map with their locations. But the AirTags connect with more than the owner’s iPhone,” NBC News reported. “Using Bluetooth technology, an AirTag sends a signal that any nearby iPhone, iPad or Mac can detect. Those devices can then send the location of an AirTag to Apple’s cloud computing network and on to the owner. Apple says that only the owner of an AirTag can see where it is, and that the device itself doesn’t store location data or history.”

“Police in Colorado, Georgia, Michigan and Texas have reported the misuse of AirTags, including for domestic stalking and trying to steal cars. The sheriff’s office in Twin Falls, Idaho, warned residents this month that AirTags pose a danger, especially to potential victims of domestic violence,” the news outlet added.

(Video: 11 Alive)

Apple recently implemented two software updates to address the issue, NBC recalled: “One change had to do with a feature to deter unwanted tracking: An AirTag will play a sound if it’s away from its owner for too long. In June, Apple shortened that time period from three days to a randomized time from 8 to 24 hours.”

According to WFIE, in an incident under police investigation, a University of Southern Indiana student noticed that she was apparently being tracked by an Apple AirTag after she spotted a notification on her own phone that read “Your location can be seen by the owner of this Air Tag.”

“The hard part is, you can’t disable an air tag unless you find where it is, making it difficult to take action when this happens,” the station noted. This is especially true when it’s stealthily hidden somewhere in a vehicle.

According to Fox Business, “To disable an AirTag, users must locate the device and tap their phone to it, at which point a pop-up will direct users to a website, allowing them to disable the device.”

In another disturbing instance, a Philadelphia-area resident returning home from the movies received a prompt on the phone that read “Unknown Accessory Detected – This Item Has Been Moving With You For A While,” plus other similar alerts. The person also observed a suspicious vehicle — which drove away slowly upon being approached — outside the home, Fox 29 detailed.

A Sports Illustrated swimsuit model recently posted a short Instagram video in which she described how someone allegedly slipped an AirTag into her coat pocket at a New York City bar:

In a statement, Apple told Fox Business, “We take customer safety very seriously and are committed to AirTag’s privacy and security. AirTag is designed with a set of proactive features to discourage unwanted tracking — a first in the industry — that both inform users if an unknown AirTag might be with them, and deter bad actors from using an AirTag for nefarious purposes.

“If users ever feel their safety is at risk, they are encouraged to contact local law enforcement who can work with Apple to provide any available information about the unknown AirTag.”

Watch reports from NBC News about the potential AirTag stalking issue:

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