Would you be alarmed to find out that you could be tracked, and there wouldn’t be much that the police could do?

Within the last month, the West Seneca Police Department have received at least two reports of unlawful tracking after a message appeared on their phones saying an unknown accessory had been detected near them and could see their location.

It is scary, to say the least, especially when you think about what happened to Jackie Wisniewski, an Erie County resident who discovered a GPS device on her car in 2012, placed there by an ex-boyfriend to keep tabs on her. When she reported it to the police upon removal of the tracker, she was told that there was nothing the authorities could do because it technically wasn’t a crime.

Jackie Wisniewski was later murdered by that ex-boyfriend.

That was 2012, but we’re almost in 2022, and now people are being tracked with AirTags, and it's happening in Western New York.

The Apple AirTags appeared to be moving with the women who reported that they were being tracked, which means that the AirTag was most likely placed on their vehicles.

AirTags are a small, disk-like item that are designed to help you find a missing item, but there are people who have started to use them to track individuals without them knowing. 

According to one cyber security expert, it would be more than challenging to locate an Apple AirTag on a vehicle, because it is about the size of a quarter. The charging battery of an Apple AirTag lasts for almost a year or more, posing a threat that could be around more than you'd like to admit.

Police reports have found this kind of tracking in Georgia initially, and now the West Seneca Police Department is receiving reports of AirTag tracking in Western New York -- that's why it's good to be aware of the signs that you’re being tracked and what you can do if it happens to you in Western New York.

What Happens When You Are Tracked Via An AirTag?

One woman who was being tracked via an Apple AirTag received a notification on her iPhone that an unknown accessory was traveling with her. Another woman, former Buffalo TV reporter Madison Carter, received a notification after stopping at a gas station, which said, “Unknown Accessory Detected Near You.”  

Carter couldn’t find the tracker when she searched her car, but there is an option to disable the tracker from your phone. 

After notifying the local authorities in Georgia where the first few instances of tracking have occurred, and while police have tried to help however they can, the technology is so new that the authorities are generally unsure how to handle the new development.

Luckily, there is something that can be done in Western New York should you find that you are being tracked.

Where Are The AirTags Being Placed?

The West Seneca Police Department was able to find one of the reported Apple AirTags.

"It was placed underneath the bumper, kind of inside the lip," the authorities said. It would have been a hard object to find because it is not something you would conveniently check for, but now that you know one has been placed there, the bumper may be the place to look.

Police said they hope to receive the records from Apple to determine who the AirTag belongs to and who might have placed it, and then that individual could face criminal charges.

What If It Happens To You in WNY?

If you notice you are being tracked, you should contact the police. While the technology may be new and unfamiliar to most, there is at least a law that prevents this kind of tracking in Western New York and throughout New York state. 

Thanks to the efforts from the Wisniewski family after Jackie’s heartbreaking murder, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Jackie’s Law into effect in 2014. In the law, it added the use of GPS devices to track another person onto the list of actions considered as fourth-degree stalking. This qualifies as a misdemeanor with penalties up to three months in jail and $500 in fines. 

However, placing a tracking device is still legal in New York. After you find a tracking device on your vehicle, you must make it clear that the actions are not approved, and then you must come forward to prove that the stalker continued to use the tracking device, despite never receiving the permission to do so.

Always be on your toes, and stay safe, WNY.

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