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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Apple AirTags pose new threat as harassment reports from female UW students are on the rise

UWPD and MPD are currently investigating a rise in harassment toward female students on State Street and on campus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The University of Wisconsin Police Department and Madison police are currently investigating a rise in harassment geared toward female students on State Street, Langdon Street and its surrounding area that occurred over the last week. Authorities believe that only one person is involved, according to UWPD Director of Communications Marc Lovicott. 

UWPD noted that they had received one direct report from a victim, one indirect report from an individual who was calling to share information she heard from her friend and another report that occurred off campus and was referred to the Madison Police Department.

Rumors have spread across campus that these incidents are part of a sex trafficking scheme using Apple AirTags, but the campus police denies these statements. 

UW-Madison students have used social media to warn friends about incidents of harassment.

“I believe that was rumor on a Reddit string, and we are confident the incidents have nothing to do with sex trafficking,” Lovicott said.

Apple AirTags, a technology supposed to bring convenience to those who easily lose their belongings, have allegedly become an asset to on-campus harassment. After its release last spring, Apple updated the safety features on AirTag to address stalking and unwanted tracking concerns. 

UWPD has been investigating local Madison reports of individuals receiving AirTag warnings and tracking alerts from unassociated Apple ID accounts since December 2021.

Although a suspect has not been identified, multiple victims told The Daily Cardinal that the suspect is young and blends in with the college-aged crowd.

“He said he was a senior and forcibly made conversation with me, asking questions about my ethnicity and making assumptions about my background,” an anonymous source said in an interview. “Then he started making comments about my features, saying I had beautiful eyes and started asking where I lived in relation to [Memorial] Union.” 

After hearing news about a man flirting with students and attempting to place AirTags on them or their belongings, she looked and discovered one in her backpack, the victim told the Cardinal. She immediately took out the battery of the AirTag and reported it to the Madison Police Department on Monday afternoon.

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The source is currently collaborating with a detective at the MPD. She told the Cardinal that she knows of two other students in her inner circle that have encountered or observed two men involved in the approach scheme. 

A similar encounter happened to Sam Goldstein, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, when she was walking near Mondays Bar on State Street around 5 p.m. A man approached Goldstein and said she was cute and asked for her number and a hug. With her AirPods in, Goldstein said she yelled at the man to “get the hell out of [her] way,” but noticed “he had his phone out ready for [her] to put a number in.”

While some students have taken to social media to claim that the suspect is placing AirTags on individuals, UWPD have not located any AirTags on victims at this time, according to Lovicott. 

However, the same anonymous source told the Cardinal that she saw a sorority group chat chain talking about other identical encounters where a girl was approached and later found an AirTag in the pocket of her jacket.


A sorority group chat chain warned members to be wary of sex trafficking tactics.

Another anonymous source told the Cardinal that a man approached her, telling her she was beautiful, while she was waiting in line for Strada inside Memorial Union. She remembers feeling uncomfortable, and told the man that she needed to study and wished him a good rest of his day. 

At first she thought of this as just a random, strange interaction but was later informed about a man approaching women and placing tracking devices inside their belongings on and around campus by her sorority sisters, prompting her to reconsider the interaction. 

“After hearing about similar encounters in my sorority group chat, I realized he had the opportunity to tag me. That was why he asked for a slice of my pizza while my backpack was wide-open,” she said in an interview. 

While many students are concerned about AirTag tracking and want definitive answers, UWPD has stated that they are still investigating the reports along with MPD. 

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