Car thieves in Canada are using AirTags to track victims' vehicles

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in iOS

Canada's complex car theft ring, which often involves stealing and shipping expensive cars and SUVs around the world, just got even creepier thanks to AirTag.

AirTag in a brown leather strap, attached to a grey bag
AirTag on a bag



Canada is currently dealing with an auto theft epidemic. The Insurance Bureau of Canada says that in 2022 alone, more than 105,000 vehicles were stolen across Canada. Now, it seems that auto theft rings have implemented a new tool for choosing cars to steal: Apple's AirTags.

Ethan Yang, a man from Massachusetts, was driving back home after visiting his family in Montreal when he received an alert on his phone. Upon checking, he discovered that someone had attached an AirTag to his car without his knowledge and was secretly tracking his movements.

"When I was on my way back, I was about to cross the border, my phone alerted me that there was a tracking device. By the time I realized it, I confirmed it with my phone that was able to make the AirTag beep," Yang told WCAX. The device was located in the front grill of his vehicle.

And Yang isn't the only one, either. In Burlington, Vermont, police have had two other reports of travelers discovering GPS tracking devices in their vehicles in March.

"They could be identifying vehicles that could be stolen and shipped abroad as part of a car theft ring," Ryan McLiverty, a cyber analyst with the Vermont Intelligence Center, told WCAX.

While car theft has been a growing issue for a while, there's now a new spike where criminals in Montreal use technology to track cars, steal them, and sell them.

It can be scary to be tracked without your consent, but if you find or are alerted about an unknown AirTag, there are steps you can take to keep yourself safe.

In January, a Toronto man had his vehicle stolen for a second time and while Apple's AirTag inside didn't help recover it -- and neither did the police -- he got to track it all the way to Dubai.

In November, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser launched a program offering AirTags to residents in car theft-prone neighborhoods, using Apple's Find My technology to help locate stolen vehicles.

Victims of vehicle theft may be tempted to use an AirTag to track their stolen car to the thief's location and confront them. However, it is not recommended by Apple, AppleInsider, and many law enforcement agencies. Instead, victims should report the crime to the police as soon as possible.



Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 10
    "...just got even creepier thanks to AirTag."

    You mean thanks to tracker technology? They could be doing this with any of them, and probably are using other trackers, too. We just found out because AirTags are safer than some other trackers.

    Also, report the tracker to the police only after you've planted it on your ex's car  ;)
    AllMwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 10
    Montrealer here. Cars are stolen here and packed in containers to get shipped out to Africa, UAE countries where they are resold as used cars there. The Montreal Port is a very, very ‘hot’ place for these criminals to ship out of, because of local/federal laws preventing police from accessing containers in a timely manner. 

    A lot of these crimes are committed by teenagers, unfortunately. 

    AirTags are used by the criminals to locate cars of interest so they can be stolen later, true. However, keep in mind that once the cars are back in the US, as much as these people may want your car, they won’t come to the US to steal them. Crossing a border with a stolen vehicle to get it back to Montreal Port is way too much trouble! 

    timpetusravnorodomAppleZuluAllMdewmeRonnyDaddyteejay2012stompywatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 10
    jamnapjamnap Posts: 89member
    Sounds like Canada has shoddy export controls and inspections.  Do they not check VINs on all outbound vehicles to compare to a lost/stolen vehicle database.  AirTags are not the story (problem) here; incompetent authorities and toothless SOPs are to blame for the large number of stolen vehicles leaving Canada.  plus, this story lacks pertinent details:  AirTags can be tracked back to the activator.  Was the hidden tag turned over to LE and if so what did they do about it?
    chasmdewmewatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 10
    DracoDraco Posts: 38member
    I'll bet my next paycheck these criminals are not native born Canadians. 

    Enjoy your immigration, and remember, diversity is your strength. 
    watto_cobraJanNLjbdragon
  • Reply 5 of 10
    Draco said:
    I'll bet my next paycheck these criminals are not native born Canadians. 

    Enjoy your immigration, and remember, diversity is your strength. 
    By "native born Canadian" you are of course referring to white, European stock, yes? Or are you referring to First Nations indigenous stock? And do you include any "native born" whose ancestry may not be European? Because there are plenty of those too. And it's really unfortunate that whoever in your illustrious family lineage to first immigrate to these fair shores didn't step on a rusty nail and expire from tetanus, because then we would have been spared you. 
    robin huberchasmdewmedstew201@gmail.comronnwatto_cobramuthuk_vanalingamauxiobeowulfschmidt
  • Reply 6 of 10
    chasmchasm Posts: 3,294member
    Draco said:
    I'll bet my next paycheck these criminals are not native born Canadians. 

    Enjoy your immigration, and remember, diversity is your strength. 
    I’m impressed that you can type that accurately wearing your white hood.
    13485ronnwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 10
    jamnap said:
    Sounds like Canada has shoddy export controls and inspections.  Do they not check VINs on all outbound vehicles to compare to a lost/stolen vehicle database.  AirTags are not the story (problem) here; incompetent authorities and toothless SOPs are to blame for the large number of stolen vehicles leaving Canada.  plus, this story lacks pertinent details:  AirTags can be tracked back to the activator.  Was the hidden tag turned over to LE and if so what did they do about it?

    Montreal port is the problem with co operation from dock workers and police. Family member had Toyota SUV stolen, with a hidden Air Tag, and it reported its position from the port. The police said there was nothing they could do at the port... too big to search? Insurance paid, the car is in the Middle East and all our premiums go up.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 10
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,362member
    This article is a very small snapshot into what is a major problem in every country that has shipping ports that deal with export via large container ships. The only reason this article is here is because there is an association with an Apple product. The bad guys are no different than the good guys when it comes to exploiting technology in ways that benefits themselves and their businesses, legal or illegal. It’s trivial to find multiple instances of stolen vehicles being shipped through major shipping ports in the US, Canada, Italy, Japan, and every country that has large scale shipping operations. As long as there is a market for something, anything at all, legal or illegal, the mechanisms for transporting the highly desired things across borders will exist.

    Canada is not alone in trying to stem the flow of illegal exportation of stolen vehicles, not by any means. They are actually committing a lot more resources to stemming the flow of stolen vehicle shipments than many other countries and ports that are similarly affected. Name any east coast, Hampton Roads, Savanna, Newark, or west coast container handling facility and you will find they are struggling with the exact same problem, including relatively low rates of detection mainly due to a lack of resources including manpower, funding, and detection and surveillance systems. The consequences of this illicit activity are very serious, not just from financial costs due to property losses and insurance claims, but because this illicit activity provides a revenue stream for far more serious crimes, like drug and weapons trafficking.
    edited March 30 13485sandorwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 10
    sandorsandor Posts: 658member
    Bad actors have monetized global inequity since time began.

    The interesting thing is how this falls into the right to repair argument re: lock down of parts.

    Imagine if you report your car stolen to the manufacturer & a phone home immobilizer locks down the ignition + all 4 wheel brakes + activates the alarm.

    Just like a stolen phone being bricked, this will not end crime, but raise the bar & make certain males & models less-likely targets (unlike Hyundai and Kia making some models *more* likely targets due to archaic, easily breakable ignition locks.)

    Philadelphia has a fair bit of vehicle left too, but the majority has always been (and still is) off dealers lots & the port area waiting for further shipping via rail. When they are sitting waiting for a train, they have their keys inside  :D
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 10
    macguimacgui Posts: 2,358member
    Draco said:
    I'll bet my next paycheck these criminals are not native born Canadians. 

    Enjoy your immigration, and remember, diversity is your strength. 
    Racism and bigotry come to town and are embraced with Likes. This is sad.
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