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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Sheriff’s Office investigating ‘particularly alarming’ cyberstalking of teenage girl who found tracker on her car after Hoopfest

July 21, 2022 Updated Thu., July 21, 2022 at 9:45 p.m.

A teenage girl received an unusual notification on her cell phone that led to the discovery of a tracking device attached to her vehicle during Hoopfest, according to search warrant documents.

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the discovery as a cyberstalking case.

The teenager parked her vehicle near the Kaiser Permanente Riverfront Medical Center at 322 W. North River Drive around 1 p.m. on June 25 for a few hours during Hoopfest before returning home. Around 5:30 p.m., she received a Bluetooth notification on her cellphone that showed an “unknown accessory” and an Apple Maps pin located at her residence.

At 6 p.m., she went out for coffee in Airway Heights and returned right after. But this time, she discovered her phone had tracked her location between her home and the coffee stand.

After telling her parents about the situation, the three checked her vehicle and discovered a Tile tracking device, about the size of a credit card, in the vehicle’s engine compartment.

This incident may be the first of its kind in Spokane, sheriff’s office spokesman Mark Gregory said. Although, investigators have been aware of the issue as tracking devices have become more common, he added.

The teenager said she didn’t know anyone who would want to track her, the search warrant documents said.

The tracking devices, such as Tile or AirTag, are commonly advertised as a device to help users locate sensitive items, such as keys, wallets and cell phones. However, there have been concerns over their use in stalking situations.

“The fact (that) these technologies are being used to track people consistent with cyberstalking is a concern to the right of privacy and personal safety of the victim,” an investigator’s note said . “This case is particularly alarming due to the apparent targeting of a juvenile.”

Earlier this year, Tile announced a new feature that would help prevent stalking with its devices.

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office is searching for user account data related to the Tile device that might help authorities locate someone who was cyberstalking the girl. The Sheriff’s Office has not announced any arrests.

Whether the device was used maliciously is still unknown.

It’s possible somebody misidentified the teenager’s vehicle for their own when placing the tracker.

It’s also possible to mask the identity of the user, depending on their level of sophistication, Gregory said.

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