Last month, Shaibri Swanson was driving in her friend’s car in Enola when a strange notification appeared on her iPhone, warning her that she was being tracked.
The notice, which arrived at 23:36 on December 30, read: “An unknown accessory was found near you.”
Swanson didn’t know what was going on, but she was scared.
“I felt my safety was compromised and I was in danger,” Swanson said.
A notice on her phone said “AirTag” was first spotted with her nearly four hours ago at 7:59 p.m. It was then that she and dozens of friends, mostly women, were at an upscale steak and seafood restaurant near U.S. 15 for a birthday party.
The tag has been tracking her since she left. Her phone showed the AirTag story on a map showing the zigzag path her friend had taken after leaving the restaurant.
Swanson then recalled a post on social media she recently saw on TikTok, from a woman who warned of possible misuse of AirTags sold to help people keep track of car keys and other items that could get lost.
The AirTag is a 1.26-inch location-tracking drive that Apple began selling eight months ago for $ 29 or four for $ 99. The 27-year-old Swanson does not own it, as does her friend, 22-year-old Lizmari Navarro, who also received an unexpected tracking notice that evening.
In a TikTok video Swanson saw, the woman said a small tracking device fell into her purse.
“It’s weird because I obviously thought it would never happen to me,” Swanson said.
Her situation is one of the few that has been documented and reported to police in Cumberland and Dauphin counties. Investigators say they have seen intelligence reports of possible criminal use of AirTags, but have received few reports at the local level, if any.
However, across the country, some women are coming forward to share their stories about tracking devices placed on their cars or in their belongings. This news raises growing concerns that the devices could contribute to a new form of harassment, which, according to privacy groups, could happen when Apple unveiled the devices in April 2021.
Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Brooks Nader turned to social media on Jan. 6 to warn her 800,000 Instagram followers that a tag had been put on her jacket in a crowded restaurant.
“The only plus is that I did receive a notification that someone was following me,” Nader later said. “Good morning, America.”
After Swanson noticed a strange announcement on her phone last month, Swanson and her friend continued to drive. Seven minutes later Swanson received a second warning at 11:43 p.m., as did her friend Navarro.
“While I was driving,” said Navarre, “Shibra had both phones, and I told her to try to turn it off, but it didn’t work.”
As Apple’s security feature, the tags are designed to send pings to the iPhone next to them and allow unsuspecting victims of infamous trackers to disable them.
But Swanson was unable to turn off the tracking device, which upset Navarro.
“At the time, I didn’t understand why it didn’t allow me to turn off the device that tracks my location,” Navarro said. “Especially because I don’t allow it.”
At this point, the women suggested that the tag was attached to Navarro’s car and not in the pockets of her jacket or handbag, as both women had received a notification and they could not find anything on them.
When both women arrived at their destination, the Soltan Hookah, they began caring for the vehicle. In a TikTok video, Swanson found that people can also stick AirTags on vehicles.
So Swanson and Navarra searched everywhere for the vehicle, including looking down, turning the tires, opening the hood and looking closely at the license plate area. As the women continued to try to turn off the device, the iPhone told them to call law enforcement.
Hampden Town Police Officer Johannes Notz arrived shortly after midnight. Officer Noc said he was familiar with AirTag’s crimes, but not from his own experience.
“He used a flashlight, went around the car and found nothing,” Swanson said.
Night came to the conclusion that it could have fallen out of the car. Feeling apprehensive, the women decided to ride in another car to see if the AirTag was connected to their phones and not to the vehicle, according to Swanson.
“Then, when my sisters drove up, Liz and I got in the car and drove a mile to see if we would get a notification again,” Swanson said. said.
When they returned, Night was waiting near their car near the hookah. The women no longer received notifications. Night began analyzing both of their iPhones, which showed that the tag was near U.S. 15, less than 2 miles from the restaurant where the party was.
“He probably fell because that’s where he was last seen on the map,” Night told PennLive.
Night believes that someone misplaced the AirTag on the vehicle, causing the tracker to easily detach from the car due to different speeds, potholes and bumps on the road. After the women drove far beyond the scope, AirTag lost touch with their iPhones.
To spend the night safely, the women turned off the Location Services feature on their phones so no one could track them.
Navarra said she agreed with Officer Notz’s assumption after sharing her experiences on social media and learning about a friend identified by the ex-boyfriend.
“If you stay near the device long enough, it will allow you to make noise to find it,” Navarro said. “Like I said, he probably fell off or something because it didn’t allow us to turn it off.”
Tags work through Apple’s “Find My” app, which uses an ID inside the tags to determine if the tags match Apple devices nearby. If they do not, a notification is sent to nearby devices as a warning.
Tags connect to the person’s phone, which activates the tags, allowing that person to view the current or last known location of the item on the map.
When used as intended, for example to search for lost keys, the user can use the Find My program to play audio from AirTag to help find it when the device is in Bluetooth range. Users can also ask Siri to find their subject, and AirTag will play the sound when it is nearby.
For people who don’t have iPhones but are concerned that they can be tracked, Apple has created an option for Android users called “Tracker Detection” to help identify unexpected AirTags next to them.
Office Notz has offered tips for people who can receive the same notifications as Swanson and Navarre, as the police department can use AirTags as evidence and track the owner.
“I would recommend others to go to the police station or call the police and say, ‘Hey, can you meet me somewhere, or do I potentially feel like someone might be watching me.’ If we can get an AirTag, it could potentially be analyzed. “
After the incident, Navarre said she was glad they did not ignore the red flags.
“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to have people you trust with you,” she said, “because if any of us were intoxicated or not very careful, we probably would have ignored these messages and anything that was on my car could continue to be on my car, otherwise something worse could have happened. It is also important to be alert and vigilant. “