We've been hearing about the rash of car thefts that have been going on in the Twin Cities area, and even now in rural Minnesota, we start to hear from law enforcement to not start our vehicles and leave them running outside to warm up as they might be stolen. Now it seems technology has begun to be used by suspected car thieves to track then later steal your car. But there is at least one thing you can do to deter your car from being tracked and then stolen. Use your iPhone to see if there is an AirTag hidden on or in your car.

It's been reported that recently in Canada, car thieves have been using relatively new technology to help track then later steal cars. That technology, known by Apple users as an AirTag, is like a little GPS tracker that iPhone users can use to help find regularly lost items like car keys, a wallet, phone, or anything else you attach it to. It seems that Canadian car thieves are using this tracking tool too. They put it in an inconspicuous place on a car, like a trailer hitch cover, luggage rack, or wheel well.

How do I find a hidden tag?

So how can you deter a thief from tracking your car, or better yet help you find an AirTag that is nearby? According to MacWorld.com downloading a free Bluetooth tracker app will help you locate any hidden AirTags.

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The website recommends "BLE Scanner is a limited but free app that provides a list of Bluetooth devices your iPhone or iPad can detect, and offers a mapping feature that roughly sorts them by signal strength into the distance away from your device. This is particularly useful if you’re checking out whether a car has a hidden AirTag; less so inside when there may be dozens of your own and neighbors’ devices close enough to register."

How do I turn off tracking capabilities on my phone?

How do I disable the app that AirTag uses to track on my iPhone? MacWorld gives these steps for iPhone users.

  • In iOS 13 or later or iPadOS 14 go to Settings > account name > Find My > Find My iPhone/iPad, and disable Find My network.
  • In macOS 10.15 Catalina or later, go to the Apple ID preference pane, select the iCloud link at left, click the Options button to the right of the Find My Mac item, and uncheck Offline Finding or Find My network (the text varies by macOS version).

AirTags will also beep if the paired device is away for more than 3 days, which could result in you hearing a random beep coming from the place the AirTag was hidden. MacWorld had this to say about the audible beep on an AirTag.

After an “extended period of time” away from its paired iPhone or iPad, which the company has disclosed elsewhere is three days, an AirTag makes a beep whenever it’s moved. If you hear an unexpected beep from something you’re carrying or within your vehicle, then it’s time to engage in the hunt for an AirTag. The audio alert winds up being less useful than one might hope. If a stalker or other person engaged in surveillance can come within range of the AirTag at least every three days, and they know you don’t have an iPhone or iPad that’s running 14.5 or later, they can reset that counter.

I don't have an iPhone what else can I do to prevent tracking?

If you don't have the iOS above 14, or you don't have an iPhone/smartphone there are still some things you can do besides using the Bluetooth finding app.

  • Park in a secure garage, one that has locked access
  • Use something to deter a thief from operating the vehicle, ala 'The Club' from the 90s
  • Utilize video services like a Ring doorbell system to keep an eye on your vehicle if you don't have a garage setting.

While it isn't an issue yet, at least from what I've read, AirTag tracking doesn't just end with possible car theft. Stalking victims, people in unhealthy controlling relationships may also be tracked with AirTags, which if you are in that type of relationship or know someone who is, you should know what you can do to get out and find a safe place to be by utilizing these resources.

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