Car thieves are now making use of Apple AirTags and other devices to track, monitor and ultimately steal vehicles. New data shows how organised car theft gangs are using technology to prove that cars “stolen to order” are in the thieves’ possession.
In one instance, a stolen Range Rover was retrieved by the police and motor insurer NFU Mutual which had an AirTag hidden in it.
It was discovered before the criminals were able to ship it to Africa, with the police believing the AirTag was a “proof of postage” by the thieves.
The AirTag was hidden in the roof lining of the Range Rover and was thankfully stopped by the police at a Belgian port.
This case confirmed suspicions that thieves are using low-cost tracking devices to steal expensive vehicles while reducing the risk of being caught by the police.
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AirTags and other trackers are designed to be attached to luggage or inside a wallet to help people find their lost items using their phones.
They will also connect with anyone’s phone within 20 metres of the device, allowing criminals to precisely monitor the location of the stolen car.
In doing this they can track the movements of the car before stealing it, tracking when the car comes to a stop and where it is usually parked.
It also means the thieves can track the location of the car once it has been shipped to a different country or continent.
They weigh the same as a £2 coin and cost under £30, with criminals making use of the popular and cheap technology to potentially steal a high-ticket vehicle.
Andrew Chalk, car insurance specialist at NFU Mutual, said they provide an easily-hidden way for criminals to track vehicles back to owners’ homes.
He added: “Thieves can then return at night to break in and steal the keys from the home or use electronic scanners to gain entry to the cars and drive them away.
“Thankfully, we don’t believe this practice is currently widespread, but worrying reports suggest this is a tactic thieves will use to prey upon those with desirable vehicles.
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“We’re urging all motorists to make themselves aware of this tactic to make sure their vehicle doesn’t become an item on a thief’s shopping list.”
He added that drivers in the South East of England and the Midlands should be particularly cautious given the significantly higher levels of theft of luxury vehicles.
Drivers can download apps like Tracker Detect or use Samsung’s SmartThings to scan for any unknown devices and help give motorists peace of mind.
DC Chris Piggott, of the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service, said criminals were becoming more sophisticated with their methods, naming AirTags, Smart Tags and Tile devices as the most frequently used.
He added: “With some gangs able to access keyless vehicles with specialist equipment, we’re concerned that motorists could be leading clued up criminals to their valuable possessions.
“The tagging devices being used each contain features which allow people to detect and disable them, so it’s worth motorists familiarising themselves with these as well as checking their home security measures.”
Drivers should check their vehicles if they think they may be at risk, with the most common places for hidden tags being in the roof lining, fuel tank flaps and storage compartments.
Owners of cars with keyless entry should also be wary as they may not need the tracking devices to be able to steal the car.
Any electronic keys should be kept away from doors and windows and placed in a Faraday pouch or box when not in use to block the signals from being intercepted.
For high-ticket and luxury vehicles which are more at risk of being stolen, drivers can fit their own accredited alarm for security and tracking device to track their own vehicle.