Viral AirTag discovery behind license plate likely staged

Posted:
in iPhone edited September 17
A young woman has alleged that she found an Apple AirTag tucked behind her license plate on TikTok intended to stalk her, earning her nine million views -- but the recollection of the tale is suspicious.




Ashley, who goes by @_ashleyscarlett on TikTok, recently posted a video where she claims she's found an Apple AirTag tucked behind her license plate. She noted that a passenger in her car got an alert on their iPhone that an unfamiliar AirTag was tracking them.



In a later video, she explains that the AirTag had been placed on her car in a four-minute gap while she was parked in Los Angeles. She claims that the data was corroborated by her Dodge Charger's built-in tracking system.

She states that she called the police, who told her that the situation was "a non-life threatening emergency," and told her to report it down at the station. Ashley goes on to explain that she'd rather contact Apple with the information provided by the alert.

@_ashleyscarlett

Reply to @ann_baby7 ##greenscreen ##greenscreenvideo I will be contacting @apple with the air tags info but never in a million years did I think!

original sound - ash


However, there are reasons to be skeptical of her story.

According to posts on both Ashley's Twitter and Instagram, she also has an iPhone which was presumably used to record the account of the incident. This means that her phone should have also received an alert during this time frame as well, assuming it wasn't her AirTag in the first place.

Additionally, Newsweek called the local police department to follow up on the allegations. A local public information officer for the Riverside police department stated that there were no reports of any such incident. Newsweek also attempted to contact Ashley but has not received a response.

Ashley said in her video that the AirTag supplied her with a partial phone number, which is questionable.

"And their phone number -- uh, I mean, the last 4 digits" were shown, according to the Newsweek reporting, and AppleInsider viewing of the video account. Given that AirTag owners select what information to display when an AirTag is scanned, it seems improbable that a stalker would tell Apple's iCloud that displaying this information would be acceptable, nor would it be useful in the case of an actual lost AirTag.

Apple has made sure to equip the AirTags with built-in anti-tracking features. An iPhone user will automatically receive a notification that an unknown AirTag has been following them.

Similarly, the alert provides information to the user and the ability to play a tone to help locate the device, as Ashley did.

Every AirTag features a unique serial number, which means it can be traced back to the iPhone it is paired with. This allows law enforcement and Apple to figure out who may have lost, misplaced, or placed an AirTag with ill-intent.

Read on AppleInsider
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 24
    The real crime here is those fingernails.
    retrogustokillroyviclauyycForumPostStrangeDaysGeorgeBMacsuddenly newtonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 24
    A few more points: would her friend really get a notification so quickly after getting in the car? I thought it had to be with you for a while before you would be notified. Also, if she’s afraid of stalkers, why is she posting a video that says what neighborhood she lives in, then goes on to say she drives a Dodge, and even shows her actual license plate? Too many things wrong with this story.
    killroy602warrenmknelsonviclauyycwilliamlondonlorca2770twokatmewForumPostStrangeDayscharlesatlas
  • Reply 3 of 24
    BigBWSRBigBWSR Posts: 4unconfirmed, member
    It seems like to me, the system worked like it should. The tag alerted an iPhone, the tag was found. End of story. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 24
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,317administrator
    BigBWSR said:
    It seems like to me, the system worked like it should. The tag alerted an iPhone, the tag was found. End of story. 
    Sure, minus the whole "two minutes stopped," sex trafficking claims, "like in a movie," her getting stalked, and the rest of her angles on it.
    williamlondonDogpersonGeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 24
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,630member
    So what’s the angle here? Fifteen minutes of fame (remember Tawana Brawley) or the hope of getting money out of Apple?
    williamlondonIreneWGeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 24
    lkrupp said:
    So what’s the angle here? Fifteen minutes of fame (remember Tawana Brawley) or the hope of getting money out of Apple?
    Exposure.

    williamlondonDogpersonStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 24
    A few more points: would her friend really get a notification so quickly after getting in the car? I thought it had to be with you for a while before you would be notified. Also, if she’s afraid of stalkers, why is she posting a video that says what neighborhood she lives in, then goes on to say she drives a Dodge, and even shows her actual license plate? Too many things wrong with this story.
    There are some blog reports where people tested the function and found it took 12+ hours of "following" to get an alert.

    It's possible that friend spends a lot of time in the car, but yes, it seems strange.
    twokatmewwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 24
    lkrupp said:
    So what’s the angle here? Fifteen minutes of fame (remember Tawana Brawley) or the hope of getting money out of Apple?
    Unearned, undeserved validation through more Instagram followers.
    StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 24
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,882member
    Let’s hope she provided the serial number so Apple can track down the buyer. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 24
    For now I'll give her the benefit of the doubt.

    If I were a criminal I'd probably not rely on affixing AirTags to a license plate holder. I'd probably have some superglue handy and use that to attach the Tag to some unseen part of the car. Even so, I'm likely to remove my plastic license plate holder now.

    Magnets might work to attach trackers, but most cars are made out of aluminum, which is not magnetic. Even steel is not always magnetic. But I did find this video showing how to attach a magnet to a car (that you own):

    <--

    If you are using google to research this topic, make sure you say "tracker" instead of "bug" because there are thousands of websites related to cleaning six-legged "bugs" off your car.

    I wonder how many car dealerships have had to find and remove AirTags for customers. Some of them could be well hidden.

    I wonder if cars of the future could have tracker-detectors built-in. I don't see why not. Which manufacturer will be the first? I'd imagine they haven't even thought of this problem yet.
  • Reply 11 of 24
    Unless she already had 10,000 followers, she won't be making any money off that video.
  • Reply 12 of 24
    A young woman has alleged that she found an Apple AirTag tucked behind her license plate on TikTok intended to stalk her, earning her nine million views -- but the recollection of the tale is suspicious.




    Ashley, who goes by @_ashleyscarlett on TikTok, recently posted a video where she claims she's found an Apple AirTag tucked behind her license plate. She noted that a passenger in her car got an alert on their iPhone that an unfamiliar AirTag was tracking them.



    In a later video, she explains that the AirTag had been placed on her car in a four-minute gap while she was parked in Los Angeles. She claims that the data was corroborated by her Dodge Charger's built-in tracking system.

    She states that she called the police, who told her that the situation was "a non-life threatening emergency," and told her to report it down at the station. Ashley goes on to explain that she'd rather contact Apple with the information provided by the alert.

    @_ashleyscarlett

    Reply to @ann_baby7 ##greenscreen ##greenscreenvideo I will be contacting @apple with the air tags info but never in a million years did I think!

    original sound - ash


    However, there are reasons to be skeptical of her story.

    According to posts on both Ashley's Twitter and Instagram, she also has an iPhone which was presumably used to record the account of the incident. This means that her phone should have also received an alert during this time frame as well, assuming it wasn't her AirTag in the first place.

    Additionally, Newsweek called the local police department to follow up on the allegations. A local public information officer for the Riverside police department stated that there were no reports of any such incident. Newsweek also attempted to contact Ashley but has not received a response.

    Ashley said in her video that the AirTag supplied her with a partial phone number, which is questionable.

    "And their phone number -- uh, I mean, the last 4 digits" were shown, according to the Newsweek reporting, and AppleInsider viewing of the video account. Given that AirTag owners select what information to display when an AirTag is scanned, it seems improbable that a stalker would tell Apple's iCloud that displaying this information would be acceptable, nor would it be useful in the case of an actual lost AirTag.

    Apple has made sure to equip the AirTags with built-in anti-tracking features. An iPhone user will automatically receive a notification that an unknown AirTag has been following them.

    Similarly, the alert provides information to the user and the ability to play a tone to help locate the device, as Ashley did.

    Every AirTag features a unique serial number, which means it can be traced back to the iPhone it is paired with. This allows law enforcement and Apple to figure out who may have lost, misplaced, or placed an AirTag with ill-intent.

    Read on AppleInsider
    This could have been staged, under the circumstances I wouldn't argue that it wasn't. But some of these things don't seem suspicious to me.

    First, she indicates that she didn't go file a report with the police. So it makes sense that they wouldn't have a searchable report. Second, you can get the last 4 digits of the phone number a found AirTag is linked to even if it isn't in lost mode and the owner hasn't shared their whole phone number. (Using NFC you can get a link that leads to a page that looks like the second image on this page.) Third, I don't think she - in addition to her friend - would have gotten an alert about an unknown AirTag if she had bluetooth turned off on her iPhone. I'm not sure how common it is, but some people I know routinely have bluetooth turned off on their iPhones. And her friend might have just gotten the alert shortly before she would have. (Maybe her friend was traveling with her the whole time? That isn't clear.)

    Anyway, maybe this is legit. Or, of course, maybe it isn't.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 13 of 24
    crowleycrowley Posts: 9,103member
    Not quite sure why there's so much saltiness and disbelief towards this woman, it's not even as if it shows Apple in bad light; the system worked as it should.

    If it is staged, meh so what.  If it raises awareness that AirTags can be used in this way, and to pay attention to alerts that an unknown AirTag is close by then all the better.
    Dogperson
  • Reply 14 of 24
    jeffkoke said:
    The real crime here is those fingernails.

    Nurses and other healthcare professionals are instructed to avoid such fake nails:   Not only do they interfere with the job but they foster bacteria and fungi that can be passed on to patients.  Think of wearing the same underwear for days and weeks without washing either it or yourself. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 24
    lkrupp said:
    So what’s the angle here? Fifteen minutes of fame (remember Tawana Brawley) or the hope of getting money out of Apple?

    It seems that truth has no meaning or value these days and is meant to be bent, twisted and even invented for fun and profit.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 24
    Omg, it’s 2021 no one would just make stuff up and repeat it as if it were true.  Hmmm, reflecting on anti-Vax, 2020 elections, ok, I guess people do just make stuff up
    williamlondonGeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 24
    I have been a long time customer of Tile and ordered quite an few AirTags when they first came out and have been largely disappointed with them. They do not seem to be very effective.
    Air Tags are about as bad as routing with Apple Maps.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 18 of 24
    davgreg said:
    I have been a long time customer of Tile and ordered quite an few AirTags when they first came out and have been largely disappointed with them. They do not seem to be very effective.
    Air Tags are about as bad as routing with Apple Maps.

    Good to hear!
    Apple Maps work great for me -- and nobody is tracking me!
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 24
    Omg, it’s 2021 no one would just make stuff up and repeat it as if it were true.  Hmmm, reflecting on anti-Vax, 2020 elections, ok, I guess people do just make stuff up

    As psych nurse I had a number of patients who preferred their own version of reality.  The real thing was just too hard for them.
  • Reply 20 of 24
    Maybe it was staged. This can happen, and this likely will happen. That's what the notifications are for. 

    This is definitely dual-use technology. As someone who would be concerned about someone stealing, say, my camera bag, I would rather it be harder for a thief to detect or disable my AirTag. But, the better AirTags are for that use case, the better they are for stalkers. But even better for stalkers would be throwing any still functioning iPhone into a car. Those won't beep and will connect to cell phone networks themselves. Since it won't use the screen and the only thing you need it to do is ping the Find My network, you can run it in low power mode with the screen off and it will probably run for two days. Admittedly, an AirTag is only $25 and is a lot smaller, but if you are really going to stalk somebody using tech, you can get an older iPhone for $150 and do so perfectly well, particularly if you are willing to stalk their car rather than, say, their purse. 
    watto_cobra
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