‘Extremely unsettling’: Consumer claims portable tracker found in car he just bought

ORLANDO, Fla. — Small devices, like the Apple AirTag, that can track your every move are becoming increasingly common, inciting fears about how they’re being used.


Tim Noftsinger thought he’d picked out the perfect car.

“I have a four-year-old daughter, and so I wanted a car that was kind of safe for her,” Noftsinger said.

He liked the way the vehicle rode and looked, so he made the deal with CarMax in Orlando.

Noftsinger said it didn’t take long before there was a big bump in the road. “As soon as I came in the house, I noticed a notification on my phone, saying I had an unknown AirTag following me.”

Action 9′s Jeff Deal tested an AirTag to see how long it would take to get a notification that he was being followed. He placed an AirTag that was not registered to him near his location and was alerted after 6 hours.

Often people will attach them to keys or luggage, items they could easily lose.

Read: Man tracks down stolen truck using Apple Airtag; shoots, kills alleged thief, police say

Noftsinger never expected to have a tracking device hidden in his car. Using Apple’s Find My app, he was able to locate the general vicinity of the device. He believes it’s somewhere in the rear body of the car.

The problem is he can’t find it so that he can remove it.

CarMax told Deal that it doesn’t place AirTags in vehicles it sells, and the privacy of its customers is extremely important. It says it offered to place the vehicle on a lift for further inspection or to cover the cost of an inspection by a third-party company, but Noftsinger declined.

“Leaving the original owner with the ability to continue to track his car is extremely unsettling,” Eva Galperin said.

Galperin is with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and has been at the forefront of a push for better industry standards and regulation of tracking devices. She says they’ve been known to be abused by stalkers who hide them in backpacks, clothing or even attach them to cars.

In fact, last year a class-action lawsuit was filed against Apple for people who have been stalked or who are in danger of being stalked.

The suit claims, “With a price point of just $29, it (the AirTag) has become the weapon of choice of stalkers and abusers.”

Galperin says it’s easier for Apple device users to find out they’re being followed by an AirTag since it will eventually alert them.

For Android device users they would have to download Apple’s app, Tracker Detect, and activate it each time they want to scan to see if they’re being tracked.

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“Yes, AirTags do place Android users disproportionately at risk,” Galperin said.

Apple sent Action 9 a statement that reads in part:

“AirTag was designed to help people locate their personal belongings, not to track people or another person’s property, and we condemn in the strongest possible terms any malicious use of our products.”

While Noftsinger doesn’t believe the previous owner of the car is stalking him, he is concerned that whoever controls the AirTag could know where he lives, where he parks his car, .and even where he drops off his daughter.

“So, it’s actually showing you the path that I took to drop my daughter off at school,” Noftsinger explained to Deal.

According to CarMax, it reminded Noftsinger in January that he could have taken advantage of their 30-day money back guarantee and said the offers to inspect the SUV still stand.

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CarMax statement:

CarMax does not place Apple Air Tag devices in the vehicles it sells. The privacy of our customers is extremely important, and we take this situation very seriously. When Mr. Noftsinger alerted us to his concern in January, we searched the vehicle but were unable to locate an Apple Air Tag device. We then offered to put the vehicle on a lift for further inspection or to cover the cost of an inspection with a third-party company that specializes in Air Tags. These offers still stand. We also reminded him that he could take advantage of CarMax’s 30-day money-back guarantee and offered to help him find a different vehicle, but Mr. Noftsinger declined these options. He has not contacted us since January but we would be more than happy to continue to work with him to find a resolution.

Apple response:

“AirTag was designed to help people locate their personal belongings, not to track people or another person’s property, and we condemn in the strongest possible terms any malicious use of our products. Unwanted tracking has long been a societal problem, and we took this concern seriously in the design of AirTag. It’s why the Find My network is built with privacy in mind, uses end-to-end encryption, and why we innovated with the first-ever proactive system to alert you of unwanted tracking. We hope this starts an industry trend for others to also provide these sorts of proactive warnings in their products.”

“We design our products to provide a great experience, but also with safety and privacy in mind. Across Apple’s hardware, software, and services teams, we’re committed to listening to feedback and innovating to make improvements that continue to guard against unwanted tracking.”

Jeff Deal

Jeff Deal, WFTV.com

I joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in 2006.