Apple AirTags are being used in car thefts, say Canadian police

Apple's AirTags have made it easier for people to find mislaid car keys and other items, but a report from Canada suggests they may also be aiding the nefarious activities of car thieves.

Investigators with the York Regional Police have said they are looking into five incidents where suspects have secreted the small tracking devices on high-end vehicles so they can later locate and steal them, generally from the victim's driveway.

The AirTags are placed in out-of-sight areas on target vehicles, often they are parked in public places such as shopping areas.

It's a spin on the use of tracker devices by logistics companies to protect goods in transit, for example by alerting when shipments deviate from an expected route and allowing recovery of stolen goods.

According to officers with York's auto/cargo theft unit, thieves typically use tools like screwdrivers to enter the vehicles through the driver or passenger door, while ensuring not to set off alarms.

An electronic device, typically used by mechanics to reprogramme the factory setting, is connected to the onboard diagnostics port below the dashboard and instructs the vehicle to accept a key the thieves have brought with them.  

Once the new key is programmed, the vehicle will start and the thieves drive it away. The incidents under investigation have involved the Apple devices but there are a number of other tracking tags available on the market that work in a similar way.

York Regional Police offers the following advice to drivers:

  • If possible, park your vehicle in a locked garage. Most vehicles are stolen from a driveway;
  • Use a steering wheel lock. It will also act as a visible deterrent;
  • Install a lock on the data port. This simple device can be purchased online and blocks access to the computer port where the thieves gain access to reprogram the vehicle’s keys;
  • Consider purchasing a quality video surveillance system. Ensure cameras are properly placed and functioning for day and night time use. Familiarize yourself with the system so it can be reviewed and accessed easily; and
  • Inspect your vehicle regularly and call police if you notice any suspicious potential tracking devices.

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