Finding a GPS Tracker on Your Vehicle

In honor of Human Trafficking Awareness day on January 11, Angel Reyes – Reyes Browne is dedicating the week to touch on topics that can help keep all individuals safe as they’re going about their everyday lives.

We’re here to make sure you have the right tools and methods to check the exterior and interior to find a GPS tracking device on your vehicle.

Within the past year, both men and women all over the country have reported finding Apple AirTags attached to their vehicle after being alerted by their iPhone. Posing a serious threat to people’s privacy and wellbeing, airtags are playing a role in crimes such as robberies and stalking.

So, what is an AirTag?

In April of 2021, Apple officially launched its latest Mac technology: AirTags.

The small circular tag is designed to attach to items like keys and wallets to allow these accessories to be tracked using Bluetooth right alongside Apple devices in the “Find My” app.

Violation of Privacy

GPS technology is nothing new. In fact, there are several circumstances where it is extremely normal to track a vehicle. Some parents choose to use a GPS tracking device on their teenager’s car; fleet companies use them to locate company vehicles; taxi and other rideshare companies for vehicle dispatching; even the suspicious spouse trying to determine their significant other’s whereabouts.

However, these examples do not rationalize or justify the fact that placing a tracker of any sort on someone’s person, car, or home is an extreme violation of privacy.

With the release of AirTags at the end of April in 2021, more and more individuals have come forward to share their stories of finding a tracker on their vehicle. Individuals report feelings of violation, paranoia, and other distressing emotions.

Apple Airtags Features

Understanding the difference in the technology behind airtags versus genuine GPS tracking devices is extremely important when noting your safety.

One good thing that may put your mind at ease is that, according to Fox5NY, AirTags do not give you real-time and accurate updates like a genuine GPS tracker. However, if an Apple AirTag is close enough, its particular iPhone can direct you straight to it with what Apple calls Precision Finding.

Another feature to note is the battery life of an AirTag. Apple claims the AirTag is designed to last more than a year on a standard battery.

So, what if you suspect there may be an unwarranted AirTag near you?

Apple uses Bluetooth signals that Apple devices can locate. Simply use a Bluetooth tracker for iOS to scan the area around you to see if an Apple AirTag is nearby. If your Bluetooth is one, your iPhone will warn you that there is an AirTag that does not belong to you very close by.

Types of GPS Trackers

There are two main types of vehicle tracking devices:

  1. Monitored GPS tracking devices – these use real-time data about their location, the unit has a device that operates much like a cell phone and relays data anytime it is in motion or at set intervals in some cases. The majority are battery-operated and have a sensor that determines when the tracker is in motion and initiates power and signal transmission at that time, and will turn it off after it has remained stationary for some time. 
  2. Unmonitored GPS tracking devices – instead of real-time data, these types store waypoints onboard and do not transmit their location. When the vehicle is in motion, the GPS tracking device collects waypoints at set time intervals as the coordinates that must later be plotted.

Locating a GPS Tracker on your Person

If you are suspicious that someone is monitoring your movements with a GPS or cellular tracking device, there are three ways to find it.

  1. Know what you’re looking for.
    • Tracking devices look different depending on their manufacturer and purpose, but some general guidelines can help you locate one. It will typically look like a small box with a magnetic side. It may or may not have an antenna or a light on it. It will be small, usually three to four inches long, two inches wide and an inch or so thick.
  2. Perform a physical inspection.
    • Check the exterior.
      • Using a flashlight, check both front and rear wheel wells. Use your hand to feel in areas that aren’t easily visible. If a tracker is located in the wheel well, its magnet will need to be attached to a metal part, so look behind plastic covers that don’t require removal.
      • Look beneath the undercarriage. Use a mirror on an extendable pole to look far underneath your vehicle. Be aware: the undercarriage gets very dirty. If there’s a tracker attached, it will likely be equally dirty and require a discerning eye to spot.
      • Look behind your bumpers. While most bumpers don’t have many spaces to hide a tracker, it is an ideal location if room can be found within.
      • Inspect under the hood. However, it’s not likely that a tracker would be under the hood since. it would be exposed to temperatures that could damage it.
    • Inspect the interior.
      • Some tracking devices are simplistic and plug straight into the data port underneath the driver’s side of the dashboard. Check for a small black box plugged into the data port.
      • Check in the trunk — including the spare tire compartment. It could be located under the spare tire, or any other crevice in the trunk space.
      • Check under all the seats. Using a flashlight, look for anything that appears out of place, such as a small electrical module without wires or with a couple of loose-hanging wires. Compare the undersides of both front seats to determine if something is abnormal. You can also check the edge of the seat upholstery for lumps that may hide a tracking device. Check under the rear seat as well if it is movable.
      • Inspect the underside of the dashboard. You may or may not have to remove a cover underneath the driver’s side depending on your vehicle’s make and model. Once you have access, look for a magnetically-attached device, though this is where you’ll most likely find a wired device if there is one. Check for modules with wiring that aren’t neatly wrapped into the vehicle’s harnesses. On the passenger side, the glove box can usually be removed to look for tracking devices inside.
    • Tip: Under the dash, other accessors like remote starters or power door lock modules may be wired in. Before removing a device under the dash that you suspect to be a tracking device, check for a brand name or model number and research it online.
  3. Use an Electronic Sweeper.
    • Because some tracking devices only operate while in motion, have a friend drive your vehicle around while you scan for trackers.
  4. Seek Professional Assistance.
    • Several industry professionals who work with electronics regularly can provide assistance in looking for a tracking device in your car. 

Angel Reyes – Reyes Browne personal injury law firm aims to create a community that holds perpetrators responsible and accountable for the harm they cause. In honor of Human Trafficking Awareness day on January 11, 2021, Angel Reyes – Reyes Browne is taking the full week to touch on areas of gender-based crimes that contribute to U.S. culture surrounding Human Trafficking.

If you have been injured in a car accident, you need an experienced car accident lawyer specialist to protect your rights against insurance companies dedicated to minimizing your claim and compensation!

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