Protect yourself against wireless tag stalking

Bethany Reid
Tuesday 15 February 2022

Tech giants have released wireless tags to help users find lost items. The tiny tags are linked to the owner’s smartphone and are designed to track keys, luggage, and even the family pet. The tag contains a small speaker to play sound and help you locate its whereabouts using both Bluetooth and Ultra-Wideband technologies.

The media have raised concerns about the new technology as it’s already been abused by stalkers and thieves. To safeguard yourself and your belongings, you should:

  1. Understand what these devices look like
  2. Be aware of how to detect and disable them
  3. Keep your smartphones up to date
  4. Report any tags to the police

1. Understand what these devices look like

The three most popular wireless tags are:

  • Apple AirTag
  • Samsung Galaxy SmartTag
  • Tile range (Pro, Mate, Slim)

2. Be aware of how to detect and disable them

For iPhone users

If you own an iPhone 6s or newer running iOS 14.05+, your phone will automatically alert you if it detects a nearby AirTag that doesn’t belong to you. This alert will also occur if you are carrying AirPods as these use the same Find My technology.

Once you are alerted, you can select ‘Play sound’ to help you locate them.

Read Apple’s unwanted tracking support article for more information.

For Android users

Android users will not be proactively alerted if an unknown Apple AirTag is on them. Android users can download Tracker Detect from Google Play. This app was created by Apple to allow users to scan for nearby AirTag devices. If the device is still present after ten minutes, you can choose to ‘Play sound’ to locate it.

Samsung Galaxy phones also include an ‘Unknown tag search.’ As the Samsung SmartTags only work with Galaxy devices and the Galaxy Find network, they present a lower risk than Apple AirTags.

For everyone else

If Apple AirTags are separated with their owner for more than three days and the AirTag is moving, it will beep.

Tile have announced a ‘Scan and Secure’ app which allows anyone to scan and detect nearby Tile devices.

While Samsung and Tile are yet to roll out audio alerts to their wireless trackers, you should regularly inspect your belongings – including bag linings, considering this new threat.

How to disable a wireless tag

To disable an AirTag, push down and twist the back to remove the cover. This will allow you to remove the battery.

Guidance is available on the Tile and Samsung websites for removing the batteries on their devices.

3. Keep your smartphones up to date

As this is a new threat, tech companies are working to enhance security features around wireless tags. It’s important that you install software updates to benefit from these.

Apple are rolling out more updates this year to guard against unwanted tracking. These include:

  • Increasing the volume of the tag’s sound to help you locate it faster
  • Alerting users earlier

4. Report any tags to the police

Stalking is a crime in Scotland and if you suspect you have been a victim after finding a wireless tag, contact Police Scotland.
Do not dispose of the tag once you find it. Each tag has a unique serial number which Apple can use to identify the perpetrator and provide relevant information to the Police.

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