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Thieves Use Apple Tracking Devices to Steal Cars

As vehicles become more high-tech, so do car thieves.

Earlier this year, Apple finally debuted its long-awaited AirTags, a Bluetooth-connected, button-shaped tile designed to help you keep track of your keys, wallet, or just about anything else you might not want to lose.

But as with anything else in our increasingly internet-connected world, if you can see where something is on your phone, there’s a chance someone else could, too.

In suburban Toronto, local law enforcement reports that car thieves appear to be using Apple’s new tracking tiles to keep their eyes on luxury vehicles in the area.

The York Regional Police’s auto theft unit last week warned drivers to regularly inspect their vehicles for any suspicious devices after several cars were stolen with the help of AirTags.

According to officials, thieves placed the device in hidden areas on high-end vehicles when they were parked in public places, such as shopping malls or surface parking lots.

They could then trace the cars back to their owners’ homes using their phones — then steal them right out of the driveway.

And although their methods for entering the vehicles are decidedly low-tech — typically a screwdriver or other tool — the thieves also bring along another high-tech device: one typically used by a mechanic to reprogram the car’s factory settings. The thieves connect the device to an onboard diagnostics port and reprogram the vehicle to accept a key they’ve brought along.

Once programmed, the vehicle will start right up and drive away; no additional wiring required.

York authorities said they have investigated five such incidents since September. They also urged drivers to consider locking their vehicles’ data ports and take other, more conventional steps to deter theft, such as parking in a garage or using a steering wheel lock.

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