Discovery of AirTag tracking device prevents double theft of truck

A Fayette County Sheriff's deputy was flagged down in Ellinger this week by a man reporting an AirTag in his truck that turned out to be stolen out of Harris County.

FCSO Lt. David Beyer told FOX 7 the man had told the deputy he was heading to work in Austin when he got an alert on his iPhone that he was being tracked.

"He got bamboozled, he got taken," said Lt. Beyer.

An Apple AirTag was found between the passenger seat and center console. Investigators determined the truck, which the man had been purchased a few hours earlier in Houston, was actually a stolen vehicle. 

Lt. Beyer believes a double steal was about to be in play. "I'm sure the individuals who had the tracking device in there probably had a key to it so all they had to do was follow this guy, to where ever the car was parked, get in it, take off in it," he said.

The rightful owners of the stolen truck picked it up Thursday morning and the man who bought the stolen truck is out his $800 down payment. The theft case has been handed over to authorities in Houston.

Used car dealers have been using tracking devices for years, mainly for customers with bad credit, in case the vehicle has to be repossessed. La Grange mechanic Duane Evans installs tracking devices for car dealers. They're typically connected to a power source to keep transmitting and increases the range.

"A lot of people get behind on their car payments, say I’ll take it out to my ranch, out here in the country or somewhere, hide the car until I catch up on the payments, and all of a sudden a wrecker comes pulling up the driveway, and they go, how in the world did you find this car, and its like, isn't technology really grand," said Evans.

Apple AirTags, which were launched earlier this year, have their own power source and connect to nearby phones via Bluetooth. The AirTags were designed to help people find misplaced items by transmitting location data to the person who placed the device. 

Tracking down a tracker is now becoming a new trend for law enforcement, even in La Grange.

"We did here recently have a local business owner came down, talked to our sheriff and their daughter was having issues with one of her vehicles, and they were able to find under the dashboard there was a tracking device on that particular vehicle," said Lt. Beyer.

As with what happened on the roadside in Ellinger, an iPhone should provide a connection notification, but there are also apps that make it possible to search for trackers that are close by.

Apple AirTags being used by car thieves: What you need to know to protect yourself
iPhone feature will alert you if you're being stalked
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