Apple’s AirTags, small bluetooth devices that owners attach to their key chains or keep in their bags and purses to locate their personal belongings, are being misused by stalkers who are tracking their targets’ every move.
The devices, which cost $29 each, are simple to use: Users pair them with their phones, and the tags indicate where an item is located in real-time. But in an alarming new trend, they are also enabling stalkers, as individuals are discovering the wireless tags — that don’t belong to them — on their person or attached to or hidden in their belongings.
Two different victims of AirTag stalking told Inside Edition’s Lisa Guerrero they discovered they were being tracked by someone they didn’t know.
One Atlanta woman discovered an AirTag had been placed in her car’s gas tank, after she received an alert on her iPhone that an “Unknown Accessory” had been following her.
“I randomly got a notification to my phone saying something about how there is an AirTag that doesn’t belong to me that’s been with me,” the victim told Guerrero.
Stalking victim feels “helpless”
Another Atlanta-based target of AirTag stalking said she was scared “to death” to discover she was being tracked by a stranger who had placed an AirTag somewhere in her car. “I mean, I really feel helpless,” she told Guerrero.
She brought the issue to the police, but in Georgia, individuals can legally place trackers on others’ vehicles, so long as the device isn’t used to stalk or harass them.
For its part, Apple said the AirTags have built-in security features that automatically activate when the devices are potentially being used nefariously, and that the company is committed to ensuring the tool is safe and secure.
IPhone users (with an iPhone 6 or newer, running Apple’s iOS 14.5 software or above), receive “unknown device” alerts when an accessory that doesn’t belong to them appears to be following them.
“AirTag is designed with a set of proactive features to discourage unwanted tracking,” Apple said in a statement to Inside Edition. “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.”
Android users receive no such alerts unless they download a Tracker Detect app which Apple released in December. The app gives Android users the ability to make an AirTag that’s tracking them chime, so they can better locate and remove it from their person.
Unlike the iPhone tracking feature, the Android Tracker Detect app will not periodically scan for unknown devices automatically. Instead, users must use the app to manually scan for AirTags.
Don’t go home with an unknown device
But victims of AirTag stalking suggest they are still vulnerable when bad actors target them. The second victim has not yet been able to locate the device that has been surreptitiously placed in or attached to her car, despite having the vehicle inspected by trained technicians.
“My feeling is if they’ve done it to me I’m probably not the only one,” she said. “You can do everything in your power to protect yourself but the fact that someone with bad intentions can track you — and there’s nothing you can do about it — is really scary and really frustrating.”
Inside Edition anchor Deborah Norville said when people receive AirTag security notifications from Apple, they should not go to their homes, offices, or anyplace where they regularly spend time.
“The best thing to do is go to the police station,” Norville said. “Say, ‘I’m being tracked. There is an indication on my phone that there is an AirTag somewhere in my person or on my car. Can you help me?'”
Sometimes, all a victim can do is wait for the device’s battery to die for it stop doing its job. Unfortunately, AirTag batteries last about a year.
“Terrifyingly good” at tracking things — and following people
Experts have been aware of the tags’ vulnerabilities since their release in April 2021. Washington Post tech columnist Geoffrey Fowler, who tested the tags,at tracking things and also possibly helping stalkers.
Fowler said a colleague slipped an AirTag into Fowler’s bag with his permission and tracked him for one week.
“When I was riding my bike around town, it could update him on my whereabouts every couple of minutes,” Fowler told CBS News Streaming.
“So it’s a double-edged sword with this kind of technology, and I think we need to talk more about it,” he said.