As car theft incidents continue to rise in Toronto and other GTA cities, thieves are finding more ways to attack cars and drive them away without owners noticing.
The latest wicked trend: stick an AirTag on the target vehicle and steal it later when no one is looking. These AirTags are relatively inexpensive and allow thieves to be discreet in tracking and stealing vehicles.
Police in Toronto and other cities in the region have warned of an escalation in incidents of forced carjackings in recent months. Armed carjackings have been on the rise, including the recent high-profile case involving Maple Leafs player Mitch Marner.
To understand more about how AirTags are used in car break-ins, Star spoke with Toronto Police 22nd Division Officer Marco Ricciardi about the issue and what car owners can do to better protect their vehicles.
“Because the cost of a used car is going up … there’s a low supply and a high demand for cars, so they’re mostly stolen to ship abroad,” Ricciardi said.
Car thieves and tracking devices
Before tech giants Apple and Samsung invented Bluetooth-enabled AirTags and SmartTags respectively, people used to attach devices like Tile and TrackR to various items like laptops, keys, or wallets to keep track of them if they were lost or misplaced. Through crowdsourcing, you would need the Tile app to run in the background to locate the missing item that the tracking device has.
However, with the new AirTags and SmartTags, Apple and Samsung have embedded the information into the operating system in a way that allows it to be sent via Bluetooth to the tracking device owner’s phone, so they can see the location of the lost item. without having to be too close to him.
“If you throw an AirTag in your backpack and you travel to Europe, it will ping me once you land and have network connectivity, saying ‘hey, I’m here in France or Italy,’” Ricciardi said. .
How Thieves Use AirTags
Ricciardi said these AirTags are magnetic on one side and can be attached to various metal points on the vehicle. From what police have noticed, thieves scour parking lots looking for preferred vehicles to steal.
Ricciardi warns drivers to pay special attention to their vehicles, as thieves have been known to stick AirTags in a trailer hitch receiver, behind the license plate, or even in the gas cap area, anywhere. place where it won’t fall.
On their own Apple ID devices, thieves can track the vehicle they tagged for more than 24 hours.
AirTags and tracking devices are easily accessible
Ricciardi said these AirTags are available at tech stores like Best Buy and Apple Stores. They can also be purchased online at Amazon.
Prices start at $40 each or $130 for four, Ricciardi said, and their batteries can last six months to a year.
How drivers can protect themselves and their vehicles
Smartphone users can turn on their location services to be notified if an AirTag or SmartTag is nearby, Ricciardi said.
If you find the device stuck somewhere in your vehicle, Ricciardi says the best thing to do is call the police right away so they can get fingerprint information to find out who installed it there. He can also physically disable the device and prevent a would-be thief from knowing where the vehicle is. Ricciardi says the device contains a small watch battery that can be removed.
Another option is to equip your vehicle with its own AirTag. Ricciardi said he bought and installed the AirTag in his own truck, so he can track it through his iPhone and give himself a chance to know its location if it ever gets stolen.
He is personally aware of at least three recent incidents where people had their cars stolen from their driveways, but the police were able to help recover them much quicker because they had AirTags installed.
“Because it’s easy for thieves to get, it’s also easy for us to use to protect ourselves,” he said.
“It doesn’t prevent your car from being stolen, but it will help you and us get it back.”
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