Airtag tracks stolen car 11,000km from Canada to Middle East

A man has used an Apple AirTag to track down his stolen car to a country 11,000 kilometres away from where it was taken.

The 2022 GMC Yukon XL disappeared from a Toronto driveway last August, with the tracking device following its movements to the Port of Montreal, before appearing again in the United Arab Emirates.

The owner, who requested that his name be withheld, had hidden an AirTag in the car after having a similar vehicle stolen from his driveway last May.

He said that he contacted police, hired a private investigator and contacted Interpol, but is yet to get his car back.

”We’ve done everything we possibly can, save going over there and trying to take it back ourselves,” he told Canadian broadcaster CBC. “I want my truck back.”

It is not the first time an AirTag has assisted in locating a stolen vehicle, with Toronto resident Jordan Macdonald retrieving his new Toyota Highlander after it was stolen last year.

“I would recommend (using) two of them,” a police spokesperson said at the time. “Put one where it can be easily found, and then put one somewhere else where it’s a lot harder to find — a trunk, somewhere where you’re not going to hear it beeping.”

AirTags work by emitting a BlueTooth signal that is detected by nearby smartphones and other connected devices in Apple’s Find My network.

A police officer was able to use the AirTag’s signal to locate the stolen vehicle within a secured shipping container aboard a rail car, however by the time rail police were alerted the train had left for Montreal.

The AirTag then went offline for nearly a month before showing up again in the port of Antwerp in Belgium, and then in the UAE.

The private investigator was able to find the vehicle in a used car lot, sending photos back to the owner showing the same mileage and vehicle identification number (VIN).

The Canada Border Services Agency said it intercepted 1,806 stolen vehicles last year, up by more than a third from the previous year.

Detective Inspector Scott Wade from Ontario Provincial Police told CBC it was “alarmingly common” for vehicles stolen in Canada to be exported to the Middle East, Europe or Africa.

“Right now, they’re making so much money shipping cars that the low risk and high reward is too lucrative for organised crime [to pass up],” he said.