How to steal a car with Apple AirTags

Everyone is wondering what Apple AirTags are for: a gang of Canadian thieves found a way to use them to steal luxury cars

Since Apple presented its first "smart trackers", namely the Apple AirTags, a lot of people around the world have known about this kind of products and started asking themselves, "Okay, but what are they for?". This is a legitimate question, since these products are useless on their own and, like all other trackers on sale (Apple was not the first to invent them), they must be paired with a smartphone.

In Canada, however, there is someone who has preferred to give a decidedly criminal answer to this seemingly trivial question: with Apple AirTags in York, a district of the city of Toronto, they steal our cars. That's right: car thieves have found a way to exploit these tiny electronic devices to steal large luxury cars, without being too conspicuous. And they're using this technique with great results, apparently, so much so that the local police have had to issue a specific alert and give advice on how to avoid having your car stolen.

What AirTags are for (legal version)

Apple didn't bring AirTags to the market to make life easier for car thieves, nor did Samsung, Tile and all the other companies that produce smart trackers.

Smart trackers, in fact, are very small devices that must be connected to an object that you don't want to lose. They have different localization technologies inside: some have only a GPS and a Bluetooth connection, others also have a phone SIM and Apple's AirTags use the advanced Ultra Wide Band technology.

The result, more or less accurate, is always the same: the user can hold the smartphone and search for the Tag that he has registered in the app. Finding the Tag, he will find the object to which the tracker has been hooked. Very useful for not losing keys, for tracking the dog if it runs away from home and, unfortunately, also for stealing cars.

How to steal cars with Apple AirTags

If this is the way all trackers on the market work, here is how Canadian car thieves use them. The idea behind the gimmick is that one of the biggest risks for thieves is not so much in the moment of the actual theft, which usually lasts a few minutes, if not seconds, but in the phase before: that of scouting for the car to be stolen.

A non-smart thief goes out at night in his car with his accomplices and visits neighborhoods where the more affluent live. There he drives around until he finds an interesting car model that he knows he can easily resell at a good price. During this phase, which can last up to hours, he can clearly be conspicuous: the third time you see some shady guys driving past your house, you call the police...

A Canadian smart thief acts differently: he goes to the mall, parks his car and before going in to do some shopping, he does the long tour in the parking lot. As soon as he finds a desirable car, he hides an Apple AirTag inside. A few seconds and everything is done, then he can go shopping.

In the evening, the smart thief turns on the iPhone connected to that AirTag and launches the scan: in a few seconds, thanks to the technology implemented by Apple in the tracker, he can know in which area of the city is his AirTag, i.e. the car to be stolen. The next step is logical: he goes on site with his accomplices and as he gets closer to the device the signal increases and the app provides increasingly precise indications. At some point the gang of thieves got to the car with the AirTag: they force the door, get in and steal it.

York cops found some of the cars stolen with this system, and the AirTags the thieves had hidden in them. They found them everywhere, even in the electrical outlet of the trailer of a large, expensive pickup.

How not to get your car stolen with Apple AirTag

Of course the classic recommendations apply: park the car in a safe place, preferably in a garage with a sturdy door, use the steering wheel lock, use an OBD system lock, which is often used by thieves to start the car.

In addition to these recommendations, which are generic against all types of car theft, there are specific ones against "AirTag" theft: get an iPhone and turn on the notification if an AirTag is detected nearby. It's exactly the same system used to prevent stalking and stalking by AirTag: if the iPhone detects one nearby, and it's not ours, it alerts us with a notification.