Bluetooth Trackers Used for Crime

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Bluetooth trackers are useful for finding your phone, your keys, or your luggage. They do so by emitting a Bluetooth signal (that varies from 10 to 120 meters), which when detected by a paired device reveals the tag’s location on the map.

According to Cybernews, in order to extend a tag’s limited range, manufacturers introduced a crowdsourced locating feature through which the Bluetooth tracker’s signal can be detected by any nearby mobile device of the same manufacturer, and then its location is relayed to the owner.

However, these devices have also become an unexpected tool in organized crime. Europol issued a warning that malicious actors use Bluetooth tags to geolocate loot, stating: “Bluetooth trackers are now being leveraged by criminals for geo-locating illicit commodities, with a particular focus on drug trafficking.”

Europol has shared several instances in which trackers were used to locate vehicles involved in organized property crime and migrant smuggling. “The vast majority of cases relate to cocaine smuggling. These trackers have been used to locate cargo, often over 100 kg. These shipments originate in South America and are bound for ports and markets throughout the EU,” Europol said.

Officers have reportedly found Bluetooth trackers alongside cocaine in container shipments of food products, which were sometimes hidden in sea chests within ships or in commercial premises in Europe. Europol also confirms that drug traffickers use Bluetooth trackers to locate illicit shipments when they arrive in ports and when they are transported to other storage locations. They nevertheless add that it’s improbable that trackers could be used to locate shipments at sea, a task more suitable for GPS technology.

All in all, although Bluetooth trackers are less effective when they are out of range of devices paired with the same type of tracker, they are usually smaller, cheaper, have a longer battery life, and are even waterproof.