Europol warning on the criminal use of Bluetooth trackers for geolocalisation

For the past several years, Europol has been observing a growing crime phenomenon: the use of Bluetooth trackers in organised crime.

Bluetooth trackers are small devices designed to help people find personal objects, such as keys and bags, as well as vehicles at risk of theft. They can be attached to an item one does not want to lose, and wirelessly connected to the owner’s mobile phone or tablet.

Criminals have always been quick to adopt new and emerging technologies, misusing them to further their criminal goals. It is no different with Bluetooth trackers: Europol is now seeing criminals increasingly using these devices to geolocate illicit commodities.

The vast majority of cases reported to Europol relate to cocaine smuggling. These trackers have been discovered most frequently alongside cocaine in container shipment of food products, but have also been found hidden in sea chests within sea vessels. 

Based on the technological capabilities of Bluetooth trackers, and the information shared with Europol, it is confirmed that drug traffickers use them to track the transit of illicit cargo.  Through the trackers, cargo can be traced after arrival in ports, and onward by road towards storage locations in European markets. They are likely also used to locate illicit shipments upon arrival in ports.

To warn about the misuse of this technology, Europol has issued a restricted early warning notification to all EU Member States, as well as a public version.