An 18-year-old woman in Brookings found a tracker on her car while working on it with her dad, and now she and her mother are trying to raise awareness to others about the risks of being tracked.
Angelina Jennen, 18, from Brookings, said she was working with her dad on her car on Sunday when her father noticed a black chip in the area between the hood of her car and the windshield.
“He looked down there and saw it, thought it was a paint chip until he looked at it,” Jennen said.
A black Tile tracker was found on the vehicle, she said. Jennen’s dad asked if she knew she was being tracked, to her surprise.
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The family then called the Brookings County Sheriff’s Office to review the device. The owner couldn’t be found but could apparently still track the device if their phone was within a few hundred feet of the device, Jennen said.
Sgt. Kevin Murfield with the sheriff’s office said it’s the second incident he’s received a report of involving someone finding a tracker device on their vehicle. Although Jennen’s incident is different.
In the first incident, an Apple AirTag was placed in a community member’s vehicle while they were away, Murfield said.
Murfield said he’s unsure how much Jennen could have been tracked with the Tile tracker.
“As far as the owner being able to track, I have mixed results when searching for Tile products’ abilities,” Murfield said. “With Apple AirTags they are able to track movement but with Tile it appears there is a certain range limitation.”
Tracker capabilities differ depending on brand
Tile’s website states their trackers have a Bluetooth range of 250-400 feet. Outside of that range, an owner can still track the device’s last known location, according to the website.
Murfield said he’s still researching the capabilities of Tile products, but the most commonly used tracker seen by law enforcement around the county is the Apple AirTag.
“With AirTags, if someone has an iPhone and an AirTag not belonging to them is placed on their vehicle, they will receive a notification on their phone notifying them of the AirTag and that it has been tracking them,” Murfield said.
Jennen said regardless of the device’s capabilities, it did scare her to find the device. She and her mother posted a video on Facebook Monday that’s since been shared more than 4,000 times.
“It was so easy to slide it in there in a place that I would never look and not fall out,” Jennen said. “I decided to post that video just as a warning, I guess of how easily it can happen and go unnoticed.”
Using trackers to keep tabs on unknowing people can lead to criminal charges, Murfield said.
In South Dakota, a stalking charge can be issued and if the person is known to the victim like a boyfriend or girlfriend then the charge can come with a domestic tag as well, Murfield said.
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“We encourage our citizens to complete normal safety checks of their vehicles, headlights, tail lights, tire tread and so on, but to also include looking over easily accessed areas on the outside of vehicles,” Murfield said.
Police in Colorado, Georgia, Michigan and Texas reported AirTags used in domestic stalking cases and to steal cars, according to USATODAY.
Jennen said she believes she knows who placed the tracker on her car. No arrests have been made regarding the incident as of Friday morning, Murfield said.
“It was something as small as a 50 cent piece, and I never noticed it. So just be careful, be aware of your surroundings,” Jennen said.