TAMPA, Fla. — They were a hot holiday gift and a new and seemingly ingenious idea from Apple, the AirTag.
It’s an item that you can attach to keys and other often misplaced items to track where you last left them straight from your iPhone. As reports to law enforcement show, they’re also being used to track people.
One Hillsborough County deputy responded to a call in Brandon but couldn’t locate the device. He still investigated and wrote a report stating: “They (AirTags) can also be easily dropped into a shopping bag, pocket, or purse and if located most people believe they are their Airpods, and they don't discard them. I am authoring this Street Check to document this as a possible crime trend going forward.”
The AirTag is a small device about the size of a quarter. It’s easy to miss if you’re not looking and also easy to use from your phone.
Across the country, there are reports of people finding them on their cars or even kids finding them in backpacks.
Since September, there have been eight possible reports in Pasco County, one in Polk County where a man found a case in the bed of his truck near his spare tire and two in Hillsborough County.
“I’m being followed by somebody that may want to cause me harm,” a Pasco County woman told 10 Investigates.
She asked that we not share her identity, but felt her story was important to share with others. She says she found an AirTag hidden on her car and felt stalked.
“I felt unsafe, I felt trapped,” she said.
It had tracked her entire route and sent that to the owner of the AirTag. She only found out the device was on her car when it alerted to an iPhone.
“I had never seen one before. It was a foreign object to me,” she said.
And she says that the deputies who responded seemed just as confused.
“They seemed skeptical. I asked them what to do with it. They didn’t know. They seem pretty in the dark,” she said.
“It’s outpacing police and outpacing the law,” said private investigator Eric Echols, who is based in Georgia.
In Florida, it’s complicated. It is illegal to install a tracking device or tracking application on another person’s property without their consent.
However, the law didn’t apply to our victim. The person she believes put the AirTag on her car also owns the car.
It’s not just adults reporting finding AirTags on their vehicles. Children say they’re finding them in backpacks.
A 13-year-old girl in Hillsborough told deputies that she found one in the front of her backpack, throwing it away, telling her mom and calling the sheriff’s office.
In the report the deputy wrote, “The juvenile searched her school bag and discovered a black and white Apple AirTag tracking device in the front pouch of her bag. She immediately disposed of the item.”
As AirTags show up under cars, inside of wheel wells, mufflers, backpacks, purses, and anywhere else they can be hidden, you may be asking if Apple is aware? The company is aware and has some advice: If you feel an AirTag is tracking you, call the police and report it.
There are a few things to know about the AirTags: If you have an iPhone or another Apple device and an AirTag is in your vicinity, you will receive an alert that an AirTag is detected near you. You can also make it chime to locate it. f it is on your property and was put there without your knowledge, call the police and report it. They can take it into evidence.