Thief Steals Car, Takes It to a Car Wash, Puts in Gas, Has a Good Time. AirTag Inside

Apple's AirTag helps locate stolen cars 6 photos
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
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An Apple AirTag has recently helped the owner of a stolen car recover the vehicle in only a few hours, sharing location information and helping the owner determine where the thief was driving.
It happened in Long Beach, where a resident named Philip Obando discovered that his car was missing when he walked out of the house.

Naturally, the first thing he did was to call the police, but he also used his iPhone to determine where his car was located. He previously planted an AirTag in the trunk, hoping he'd never use it.

Apple's AirTag is a coin-sized device that connects to nearby iPhones to share its location. It doesn't sport built-in Internet access, and this is why it must find an iPhone in proximity and connect to it using Bluetooth to broadcast its location over the Internet. The owner can see where the AirTag is located in the Find My app on their iPhone.

Obando says he found his stolen car only a few blocks away but eventually lost track, as the AirTag could no longer update its location. The device can communicate its location if an iPhone is nearby, so when it freezes, it can no longer detect an Apple smartphone in proximity. If the thief had an iPhone, they probably walked away from the car, disconnecting the AirTag and blocking it from broadcasting its coordinates.

Hours later, they spotted the vehicle by a gas station, so the man did something nobody should ever do: confront the thief. He walked to the car, shouted at the thief, and used an extra fob to unlock the doors. Fortunately, it all ended well, as the thief ran away.

Upon inspecting the car, the owner discovered that the thief had quite a good time behind the wheel of their stolen vehicle. They took it to a car wash, put in gas, and eventually tried to swap out the license plate. A dashboard camera also recorded the entire adventure, and the thief even met with a friend, bragging about his new car.

The thief left behind not only the AirTag but also his wallet with the driver's license inside, so the owner handed everything to the police. The local media says it's unknown if any arrests were made, but considering the police have all the information they'd need to identify the suspect, it should be a matter of time until it happens.

Meanwhile, the case proves that Apple's AirTag is a great anti-theft gadget, albeit confronting a thief is a dangerous idea that nobody should do. Police emphasize that you must call 911 when you notice the car missing and provide vehicle location information to the officers to let them approach a suspect because they could be armed and dangerous.
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About the author: Bogdan Popa
Bogdan Popa profile photo

Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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