New Yorkers warned to be on the lookout for malicious AirTag users

New York Attorney General Letitia James has issued a warning about unwanted AirTag tracking and “malicious Apple AirTag users” that may be stalking them.

Apple's promotional image showing an AirTag being held between two fingers
  • Attorney General Letitia James has urged New Yorkers to be on the lookout for “malicious Apple AirTag users”
  • This is after Apple has detailed additional measures to find unwanted AirTag tracking
  • The warning follows reports of increased AirTag stalking and unwanted tracking
  • Malicious users plant AirTags in cars to track spouses, neighbors and more

New Yorkers warned about “malicious AirTag users”

As first spotted by The Mac Observer, New York Attorney General Letitia James has issued a consumer alert to warn New Yorkers about “malicious Apple AirTag users” who may plant an AirTag in an out-of-sight place in their vehicles, bags, purses and similar. Malicious AirTag use stands in stark contrast to Apple’s proclaimed goal with the product, which was designed as a personal item tracker for easy-to-lose personal belongings such as keys and luggage. Read: How to rename your AirTag and change its emoji

From the Attorney General’s consumer alert:

Across the country, Apple AirTags are being misused to track people and their belongings to cause harm. Tracking people without their awareness or consent is a serious felony and will not be tolerated by my office. I urge all New Yorkers to pay close attention to their belongings and follow the tips provided by my office to stay safe. New Yorkers’ safety is my top priority and my office will continue to do everything in its power to protect New Yorkers.

The consumer alert explains how to protect yourself from unwanted AirTag tracking:

  • Listen for unfamiliar beeping
  • Watch for “Item Detected Near You” notifications on iPhone
  • Download Tracker Detect to find unknown AirTags on Android

The advisory notes that not all unfamiliar AirTags are malicious. Just because you saw a notification on your iPhone or heard beeping doesn’t mean you’re being secretly tracked. For instance, you’ll trigger an AirTag safety alert when you encounter an AirTag that was legitimately lost by its user. If the owner has reported their AirTag as lost, you’ll see information about contacting the owner in the notification on your iPhone.

AirTag tracking and stalking are real issues

Apple has built strong safety and privacy features into AirTag to prevent misuse like unwanted tracking, including the notification for when an AirTag that isn’t registered to your Apple ID has been found moving with you. In most cases, the alerts suggests someone probably planted an AirTag on you or near you for stalking or tracking purposes.

On the downside, there seem to have been some gaps in these safety features because Apple has confirmed that some people were seeing random “Unknown Accessory Detected” alerts, suggesting they were being tracked without permission. In reality, a software bug has been causing all AirPods models to generate the notification.

Apple explains:

We’ve become aware that individuals can receive unwanted tracking alerts for benign reasons, such as when borrowing someone’s keys with an AirTag attached or when traveling in a car with a family member’s AirPods left inside. We also have seen reports of bad actors attempting to misuse AirTag for malicious or criminal purposes.

To further strengthen the security and privacy of AirTag users, Apple is going to update these AirTag alerts and safety warnings to make them clearer. Additionally, an upcoming software update will fix random “Unknown Accessory Detected” alerts. On top of that, the Cupertino company will update its unwanted tracking alert system to notify you earlier that an unknown AirTag may be traveling with you.