Mechanic Finds Hidden Tracking Device on Woman's Car
A Bonita Springs mechanic discovered an unwanted GPS tracker on a customer's car, launching an investigation by the Lee County Sheriff's Office.
The vehicle was in the shop for a routine oil change, when a tracking device was discovered hanging from the small, four-door sedan.
When checking with the victim, the shop learned she was not aware of the device being attached to her car.
At Terry Wynter Auto Service Center in Fort Myers, mechanics offer free sweeps of vehicles to check for GPS devices.
"Once it's up in the air, it's very easy to detect," Wynter explained. "It would be installed underneath the car, in a frame, the body, anything underneath the car or even behind the license plate."
The devices are smaller than an iPhone, fit in the palm of your hand and may go unnoticed by the average consumer.
"The person driving the vehicle has no idea it's on there," Wynter said. "And they're being followed."
The GPS trackers can be purchased online and installed by anyone. "It takes less than seven or eight minutes to install," Wynter explained.
Private Investigator Al Perez, of Aldesco Investigations, said he does not use GPS trackers without consulting an attorney for both himself and his client.
"If the person that has it on their vehicle does not have knowledge, it is illegal," Perez said of his understanding of the law.
"People are doing it but they're not checking with attorneys," he told us. "They're going to get themselves in a lot of trouble."
Florida state law makes the installation of a tracking device or application illegal without the owners consent. It's classified as a Second Degree Misdemeanor.
The victim in the this case told investigators she recently ended a relationship of more than a decade and is fighting for custody of a shared child.
Both Wynter and Perez suggested taking extra steps to ensure "peace of mind" if you're uncertain if someone is attempting to track your vehicle.
Tracking devices can be legally used with the owner's consent. Some car dealerships utilize the devices to track a vehicle during a payment period by the new owner if a car is being financed. Florida law also allows for parents to install GPS units on the vehicles of minors as well.
Other devices such as cell phones can be utilized similar to the GPS units but also fall under the state statute as an application for tracking.
This article originally appeared on NBC-2.