AirTag and Find My helps traveler bust Brussels theft ring

Posted:
in General Discussion edited September 2023

A theft ring in Europe has been busted by a determined victim, who used AirTag and Find My to track down his stolen MacBook and help police secure an arrest within 24 hours.




Formerly of Google AI, Tony Aube was traveling in Brussels, Belgium, to catch a flight and head back home to Canada on Friday night. However, opportunist thieves stole his backpack while he was at the train station.

Explained on X, Aube wasn't able to pursue the thieves due to having other luggage on-hand, but he was able to see where his bag went thanks to using AirTag and Find My. Initial tracking of the AirTag stopped because the thieves had ditched it, but he was able to see the MacBook at midnight that night.

Unfortunately, while he provided the information to the police, the authorities wouldn't act since they needed to know which apartment the bag was in, and the location wasn't precise enough.

The next morning, he saw his MacBook had been located in a different location. Facing a weekend stuck in Brussels while he waited to get a replacement passport, Aube decided to investigate on his own, since the thieves were the reason for his predicament.

He travelled to the second house and waited to see if anyone was entering or leaving. Five hours later, the thieves left the house, and instead of confronting them, Aube followed them around.

The following video contains swearing.

They stole my computer, so I found them and got them arrested in 24h pic.twitter.com/rXntpRhHnK

-- Tony Aube (@aubetony)



Three hours of following the thieves ensued, with the first location visited happening to be the first place that came up on Find My after the theft. The thieves also visited a local computer store where they sold stolen goods.

After sending the information and photographs to the police, Aube decided to go back to outside the house that the computer was in and called the police again. Six hours later, the thieves returned to the house, which prompted Aube to call the police once again, resulting in an arrest and the return of his property.

It turned out that the thieves were part of a "huge organized theft network," he adds, with hundreds of devices in their possession. The thieves also made an effort to try and thwart tracking systems by wrapping the devices in aluminum.

Aube claims that, had the arrest not occurred, he would've attempted to fly his drone into an open window in the house to film them and take photographs.

While it is tempting to pursue thieves by tracking an AirTag or using Find My, it is generally believed to be a potentially dangerous activity. In some cases, the victim of the crimes have suffered injuries like a broken nose, while others have died carrying out the same actions.

Read on AppleInsider

ronn

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 5
    Apple really, really needs to step up their anti-theft detection game. Make sure all devices have Find My capabilities that aren't easily thwarted. Should also be able to put an AirTag into "stolen" mode that starts showing up on police computer systems.

    If stealing an Apple device means that you're going to get caught, then fewer people will try to steal them.

    (Realize this was about a backpack, but same applies.)
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 5
    chasmchasm Posts: 3,229member
    hmlongco said:
    Apple really, really needs to step up their anti-theft detection game. Make sure all devices have Find My capabilities that aren't easily thwarted. Should also be able to put an AirTag into "stolen" mode that starts showing up on police computer systems.

    If stealing an Apple device means that you're going to get caught, then fewer people will try to steal them.

    (Realize this was about a backpack, but same applies.)
    No, what should actually happen is that backpack/suitcase/briefcase/et al makers need to incorporate Find My technology into their products, such as the company that made a “wallet thin” version of an AirTag. Thieves know now to look for AirTags, but if it’s not a conventional-looking AirTag, or really hard to find or separate from the item, that will do more to deter thieves.

    That said, I do like your idea that an owner could put the AirTag into “stolen” mode where it doesn’t make a sound to alert thieves, but sadly that could easily be abused by, well, abusers and other creeps.
    watto_cobradewme
  • Reply 3 of 5
    macguimacgui Posts: 2,344member
    I'm aware of two or three individuals that modified AirTags to fit in wallets, but what company does this? I don't know that Apple would let this happen if they were selling these.

    I really want Apple to make a wallet version, not so much for recovering a stolen wallet but to help me find mine should I misplace or drop it.

    A "stolen" mode might work if it contacted some third-party like some Lo Jack-like tracking who would then contact police and not provide the tracking info to the owner. That's still a weak point in addition to the police being reluctant to respond, even though there might be the potential to break up a huge theft ring.

    If Apple could boost the BT sensitivity of a phone, iPad, or computer to give a better location, maybe police would be more willing to respond promptly.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 5
    macgui said:
    I really want Apple to make a wallet version, not so much for recovering a stolen wallet but to help me find mine should I misplace or drop it.
    There are at least of those, from third parties, which actually work with the Find My ecosystem. They are the Pebblebee Card, the Eufy Security’s SmartTrack Card and the Chipolo Card Spot.
    ronnFileMakerFellerwatto_cobraBannedForFreeSpeech
  • Reply 5 of 5
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 6,088member
    I use AirTag's religiously for all my luggage and certain high-value items.  I really wish that Apple's next-gen AirTag be even thinner and preferably flatter.  

    It would be nice if companies would start including AirTag-specific areas in their products that make it hard to identify/remove an AirTag.  Companies that make backpacks, even bicycle-makers can make compartments in the bicycle frames to install an AirTag and make it difficult to remove, etc... 

    AirTags have changed the game.  Even police departments have been recommending that people hide AirTags in their vehicles to help in finding stolen cars.  It's that good.
    watto_cobra
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