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How to know if an Apple AirTag is tracking you

If you're at all suspicious, it can't hurt to check.

Published onApril 26, 2024

The AirTag is quietly one of Apple’s most popular accessories, useful for tracking everything from your keys to your e-bike or scooter. That can potentially be a problem, though, since malicious actors can buy their own to stalk unsuspecting people, even attaching them to the undersides of cars. The relative cheapness of AirTags makes them disposable and easy to obtain. So how can you know if you’re being tracked by an Apple AirTag?


If an AirTag is near you and away from its owner for several hours, you'll receive a notification on your iPhone. Tap it to play a noise and locate the AirTag. If you use an Android phone, install Tracker Detect, which can scan your immediate surroundings for AirTags. If you find an AirTag you suspect is being used to track you, remove its battery and call the police immediately.


How to know if an AirTag is tracking you

airtag precision finding

If you have an iPhone, it’s easy to detect an AirTag in the wild. You’ll automatically receive a notification when an AirTag registered to someone else is detected near you for a base length of time. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being stalked — it could just mean that someone has lost something with an AirTag, and you found it.

You should be concerned if an AirTag stays with you as you move. If something is lost, it’s usually stationary, and you’ll stop receiving notifications when you move out of Bluetooth range. When notifications are persistent, the AirTag is likely with you or your vehicle. Search for it immediately since there’s no telling what a stalker might do if they catch up with you.

How to find the AirTag

When you tap on an iPhone notification that an AirTag is nearby, you’ll be given the option to play a sound. This will help you locate it, though the ringer might be faint if the AirTag is hidden inside something. Be reasonably patient. If you have an iPhone 11, 12, 13, 14, or later, you can use Precision Finding to speed things up.

If an AirTag is shown moving along the same route, it’s on you or your vehicle. Start searching quickly, and don’t go home until you’ve found it. Your home address may be what the AirTag owner is after.

How to tell if an AirTag is tracking you with your Android device with a third-party app

In response to the growing illegal use of AirTags and the criticism leveled at it by groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Apple brought out an AirTag scanner app for Android. It’s not as feature-rich as you’d find on an iPhone, mainly because Android phones don’t have access to the Find My network, and AirTags only work with iOS. Most importantly, the Android app doesn’t work in the background — you must manually scan your surroundings.

It’s very basic, but anything is better than nothing. If you suspect there’s an AirTag nearby, start the app and walk around slowly. If it detects something, it should show you onscreen. The frustrating part is that it won’t show you where it is — only that it exists. There’s also no way of distinguishing legitimate AirTags from something used to stalk you, which could be a problem if your household has a mix of Apple and Android users.

How to tell if an AirTag is tracking you with your Android device using Unknown tracker alerts

android unknown tracker scan 3
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Alternatively, you can use Android’s built in Unknown tracker alerts feature.

If you suspect a tracker might be following you, initiate a manual scan by heading to Settings > Safety & Emergency > Unknown tracker alerts > Scan now. Wait around ten seconds for the scan to complete, and if there is an unknown tracker in your vicinity, your phone will alert you. You can then force the tracker to play a sound, allowing you to easily identify it.

This feature does have its limits. It’s only available for devices running Android 12 or newer. Those with older devices will have to settle for the Tracker Detect app.

What to do if you find an unauthorized AirTag

apple airtag chipolo bluetooth tracker black apple find my 2
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

If you do find an unwanted AirTag, first of all, don’t panic. As we said previously, somebody innocent may have dropped it, and even marked it as lost. If so, well done. You’ll become their new best friend when you return the item it’s associated with. If you find one in your clothes, bags, or attached to your car, that’s when you can safely assume there are criminal forces at work.

Apple recommends you do the following:

  • Put on a pair of latex gloves (or any gloves, if there’s no choice). This is to preserve possible evidence, such as DNA or fingerprints.
  • Hold the AirTag by the rim, with the Apple logo facing upward. Press down on the logo and turn counterclockwise. The cover will now pop off.
  • Remove the battery. This will immediately deactivate the AirTag and stop tracking.
  • Drop the AirTag and its battery into a small, clean plastic bag, and call the police immediately.

How to find the owner of an AirTag

Apple AirTag with iPhone rear
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

If you find an AirTag lying on the ground (maybe attached to keys or a wallet), then you need to assume that someone has simply lost it. In that case, finding the owner is simple.

Hold your iPhone or NFC-enabled Android phone near the AirTag, and you’ll be redirected to an Apple webpage. There, you’ll see if the owner has marked the AirTag as lost and the last four digits of their phone number. This can be helpful if you know someone with a phone number like that.

iphone lost airtag

If you don’t recognize the partial phone number, you must wait until the person marks the AirTag as lost. Then, you should hopefully be able to get more contact info by repeating the steps above. In the meantime, removing the battery to prevent tracking and reinserting it every few hours to check the AirTag’s status might be prudent.


When the AirTag was first released, you might not have seen an alert for up to three days. Apple has since shortened that time to 24 hours or less, likely under 8.

An AirTag can only offer precise tracking within Bluetooth range, which is about 30 feet. Beyond that you get less accurate tracking from pings to iPhones and iPads on the Find My network.

Yes, you can use it for almost anything. Pet collars for holding AirTags are widely available and affordable.

A maximum of 16 AirTags can be set up and tracked.

If it’s in a busy area with lots of iPhones or iPads, the location may be updated every minute or two. If there’s nothing to ping, an AirTag won’t update its location.

Yes, an AirTag can be used to track anyone or anything. They can place an AirTag in their pocket, bag, or keyring. Be respectful of privacy, though.

No, two iPhones can’t track the same AirTag.

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