Tampa officials warn of Apple AirTags stalking dangers
Posted By Darrigo & Diaz
Dozens of reports emerge of Apple AirTags being used to track and stalk people in Pasco, Polk and Hillsborough Counties
Last year, Apple launched their new AirTags, small, quarter-sized devices that attach to keys, wallets, purses, and other often misplaced items to track where you last left them straight from your iPhone. However, in recent months, there have been multiple reports of AirTags being used to stalk and track people in Tampa Bay.
“AirTags can be easily dropped into a shopping bag, pocket, or purse when you’re not looking. They’re so small and seemingly insignificant that they can go undetected,” says one Hillsborough County deputy.
Throughout Tampa Bay, there are alarming reports of people finding them on their cars, in their purses, or even kids finding them in backpacks. One Pasco woman reported finding an AirTag hidden on her car. A report in Polk County revealed a man found an AirTag in the bed of his truck near his spare tire. There have been two reports of AirTags being found on cars in Hillsborough County. And a 13-year-old girl in Hillsborough found an unknown AirTag in the front of her backpack, according to officials.
As AirTags show up under cars, inside of wheel wells, mufflers, backpacks, purses, and anywhere else they can be hidden, you may be asking how to detect them and prevent yourself from being targeted. Below, we provide important information on how to help keep yourself safe and what to do if you ever discover an unknown AirTag.
How do Apple AirTags work?
Apple AirTags are tiny, $30 wireless devices that enable iPhone users to securely locate and keep track of their valuables using the Find My app. Using Bluetooth, Apple AirTags attach to key chains, purses, or other personal property and share the location of the item.
The technology seems harmless—and even helpful—but police departments throughout Florida are receiving reports of unwanted tracking or stalking using the devices.
How to protect yourself from being tracked
While Apple has created certain protections to prevent unwanted tracking, it is still possible for someone to use an AirTag to track you without you knowing.
Built-in safety features of AirTags:
- ● If you have an iPhone with iOS 14.5 or later, you’ll receive a text notification of an unknown AirTag traveling with you over a period of time.
- ● If an unknown AirTag is away from its owner for a long time (Apple doesn’t specify how long but says between eight and 24 hours), it’ll play a chime-like sound when it’s moved so that the AirTag can be found.
However, one major issue with these “safety” features is that they only protect people with iPhones. About half of Americans who have cell phones use Android models, and there’s no way to automatically alert them if they’re being tracked by an AirTag!
How to detect, block, and disable an unknown AirTag traveling with you
Whether you have an iPhone or an Android, here are important tips to help protect yourself from unknown AirTags:
- ● Check your pockets: In clothing, purses, luggage, messenger bags, and other items, unzip and feel for an AirTag that’s been placed or sewn in.
- ● Check your car: In most reports where AirTags have been found on cars, the devices have been found in wheel wells, mufflers, external spare tires, or truck beds. Officials suggest regularly scanning these areas.
- ● Check your packages: Even if someone doesn’t have access to your home, work, school, or vehicle, and you don’t receive mail at the address at which you live—you might use a P.O. box or another person’s address—someone could ship you an item with an AirTag in it, and when you take that home, they could have your location. If you’re in that specific situation, you may need to examine all packages received elsewhere before bringing them home.
- ● Use Apple’s Find My app: The app can be used to manually scan for AirTags near you. If you download the app now, you can set it up to automatically notify you when an AirTag is detected near you. Android has an application to detect AirTags, but you have to proactively install the app. Learn more here.
Apple AirTags, like many categories of personal technology, have costs and benefits. While the convenience of always knowing the location of your valuable property is significant, there is a dark side to this device’s tracking ability. Regardless of whether you use these devices or not, it’s important to know how to detect and disable this technology in case its being misused.
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