Canadian law enforcement link Apple’s AirTag to car thefts

Apple has a tendency to shift industries, and usually that’s a good thing. However, in one particular case, it appears that one of the company’s newest products are being associated with something that isn’t so great: car thefts. Which is surely a little frustrating, considering Apple was getting plenty of flack for not being the first to market with a small device used to track devices.

Apple's promotional image showing an AirTag being held between two fingers

That’s right, AirTag. The small, circular accessory that’s designed to help you locate lost items. The idea is to buy another accessory so you can attach the AirTag to something like your dog’s collar, your keys, maybe your wallet or phone case. Simple enough, and, again, Apple isn’t the first company to offer something like this.

And yet, law enforcement in Canada have associated Apple’s AirTag with an uptick in car thefts in the area. Specifically, the York Regional Police sent out a press release (via MacRumors) recently outlining the means these thieves are utilizing to help track expensive vehicles back to the residence, and then steal the cars from the home at a later time.

That press release notes that the thieves are placing an AirTag on the vehicle, somewhere it can’t be immediately identified, and then using the tracking feature in Apple’s Find My app to locate the AirTag later. Usually at the place of residence. Then, from there, things get much more conventional as the thieves use other means to break into the vehicle and steal it.

The York Regional Police say they’ve been keeping tabs on the uptick in car thefts since September of this year. Of course, Apple’s AirTag launched much earlier in the year, but AirTag are certainly being used for these thefts:

Since September 2021, officers have investigated five incidents where suspects have placed small tracking devices on high-end vehicles so they can later locate and steal them. Brand name ‘air tags’ are placed in out-of-sight areas of the target vehicles when they are parked in public places like malls or parking lots. Thieves then track the targeted vehicles to the victim’s residence, where they are stolen from the driveway.

This is where we’ll note that Apple has implemented anti-tracking features into the Find My app, and this is designed to inform users when there is an unknown device, like an AirTag, on their person or near them. However, if the person doesn’t have an iPhone, this doesn’t do them any good. And even if they do and they end up ignoring the notifications Find My sends them, that’s not great, either.

The small bit of good news is that while local law enforcement says that more than 2,000 cars have been stolen within the region over the last 12 months, there have only been five thefts directly linked to the use of AirTag. However, the York Regional Police say that it’s likely these thefts will continue, and the use of AirTag will continue to be used.

So, if you do use an iPhone and you do get one of these notifications about an unknown tracking device on you or near you, be sure to take action on it as soon as possible, and in the safest way possible.