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Thursday, February 17, 2022

Can Be Used for Good or Maliciousness:
AirTag tracking devices spur consumer alert by NY State Attorney General

A consumer alert and safety recommendations have been issued to protect New Yorkers from people using Apple AirTags to track their locations and their belongings for shady purposes. An AirTag is a tracking device developed by Apple. The product is marketed as a way to help people keep track of personal items such as electronics and house keys. But the devices have also been misused.

People have reported finding unknown AirTags attached to their cars, and in their purses, coat pockets, and other personal property. Others have reportedly received alerts on their phones that their location information is being shared, even when they haven’t found an AirTag or another connected accessory.

“Across the country, Apple AirTags are being misused to track people and their belongings to cause harm,” said state Attorney General Letitia James in a news release. “Tracking people without their awareness or consent is a serious felony and will not be tolerated by my office. I urge all New Yorkers to pay close attention to their belongings and follow the tips provided by my office to stay safe. New Yorkers’ safety is my top priority and my office will continue to do everything in its power to protect New Yorkers.”

The AG’s Office recommends:

■ Listen for unfamiliar beeping.
When an AirTag is separated from a familiar device for some time, the AirTag will start to make a beeping noise. If you hear the beeping noise, try to locate its source. AirTags can be stuck in various places including in bags and pockets, under cars, inside of bumpers, and the back of license plates.

■ If you find an unfamiliar AirTag, hold your smartphone up to it to receive information about the AirTag including its serial number. Write down this information, then disable the AirTag by using the instructions on the screen or by removing the AirTag’s battery, and call your local police for assistance.

■ Watch for “Item Detected Near You” notifications on iPhones.
If your iPhone has been close to an unfamiliar AirTag or other accessory for a prolonged period of time, you may receive a notification on the Find My application stating, “Item Detected Near You.” Tap this message and it will allow you to play a sound on the AirTag in order to find it. You will also be able to use the app to receive information about the AirTag and disable it. Be sure to write down any information you learn about the AirTag before disabling it and call your local law enforcement for assistance. This Find My feature only works if your device is running iOS or iPadOS 14.5 or later, so be sure to keep your device’s operating system up to date.

If you have an Android device, download Tracker Detect from the Google Play Store. If you hear unfamiliar beeping, you can use Tracker Detect on your Android device to find any unfamiliar AirTags within your Bluetooth range. Please note that you will have to manually scan the area using the app, it will not scan for devices automatically.

■ Know that not all unfamiliar AirTags are malvicious.
While it is important to be careful, AirTags are sometimes legitimately lost by their users, and your device will alert you regardless. If an AirTag has been reported lost, your Find My notification will give you information to allow you to return it.

■ Check for updated guidance.
Apple has issued guidance on how to deal with unknown AirTags or Find My alerts. If you come across any issues, check with Apple for updated guidance.

■ Update your Apple device’s operating system. Apple is implementing new safety measures, so make sure you update your Apple device’s operating system regularly.

■ To report a misused Apple AirTag found in your belongings, please contact the Office of the Attorney General immediately by filing a complaint with the OAG Internet and Technology Bureau.

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