Europol has issued a warning about an emerging trend in organized crime, focusing on the criminal misuse of Bluetooth trackers. Originally designed for personal item location and preventing vehicle theft, these devices are increasingly exploited by criminals for illicit activities. Criminals are leveraging Bluetooth trackers to geolocate illegal commodities, with a significant number of cases involving cocaine smuggling. The trackers are discovered alongside large cocaine shipments, especially in container shipments of food products and hidden in sea chests within vessels. Drug traffickers use these trackers to trace the transit of illicit cargo after it arrives in ports, enabling them to monitor movements by road toward storage locations in European markets. Europol has issued an early warning notification to all EU Member States, cautioning them about the misuse of Bluetooth tracker technology by organized crime groups.
Bluetooth trackers are valued by criminals for their smaller size, affordability, longer battery life (approximately one to two years), and waterproof features compared to traditional GPS trackers. While Bluetooth trackers are ineffective when out of range of paired devices, they are still attractive to criminals seeking to track and locate illicit commodities. While Bluetooth trackers have been used in some cases related to organized property crime and migrant smuggling, the primary concern is their association with drug trafficking. There is no indication, as of now, that Bluetooth trackers are used to geolocate shipments at sea, as GPS technology is deemed more suitable for that purpose. However, there is potential for combining GPS devices and Bluetooth trackers for more reliable geolocation.
This alert underscores the evolving tactics of criminals, adapting consumer technology for illegal activities. Law enforcement agencies need to stay vigilant and adapt their strategies to counter these emerging threats, emphasizing the importance of technology in both criminal activities and efforts to combat them.