Best daily deals

Links on Android Authority may earn us a commission. Learn more.

How to know if an Apple AirTag is tracking you

How to tell if someone is tracking you with a hidden AirTag.
By
November 14, 2022

The AirTag is one of Apple’s greatest accessories and can be used to keep track of everything from your keys to your wallet. In fact, the AirTag is so small that it can keep track of everything — and therein lies the problem. As with all nice things in life, the AirTag is being exploited by not-so-nice people to stalk and track unsuspecting people. AirTags are slipped into pockets or attached to the undersides of cars. The cheapness of the AirTags makes them disposable and easy to obtain. So how can you know if you’re being tracked by an Apple AirTag? Here’s how to preempt someone turning up at your doorstep uninvited and unannounced.

Read more: How do AirTags work?

QUICK ANSWER

If an AirTag is near you and away from its owner for 24 hours, you will receive a notification on your iPhone. Tap the notification to play a noise to locate the AirTag. If you have an Android phone, you can install Tracker Detect, which will scan your immediate surroundings for AirTags. If you find an AirTag, and you suspect it's being used to track you, remove the battery and call the police immediately.


JUMP TO KEY SECTIONS

How to know if an AirTag is tracking you

airtag precision finding
Apple

Even though AirTag is not the only tracking app game in town, it is the biggest player in terms of Apple’s Find My mapping system, which AirTag uses to keep tabs on whatever you tell it to watch. This makes it a firm favorite for criminals, abusive spouses, and stalkers. Add in the fact that you can buy a pack of four for $99, and they instantly become cheap disposable surveillance tools.

However, there’s an easy way to detect an AirTag “in the wild” if you have an iPhone. You will get a notification on your screen if an AirTag is detected near you. Now, this does not necessarily mean that you are the victim of a stalker or criminal. It could just mean that someone has lost their AirTag, and you have found it. That’s how the system is set up. Everyone’s iPhone acts as a homing beacon on Find My to zero in on lost AirTags.

However, where you need to be concerned is if the AirTag stays with you constantly as you move. If an innocent person has dropped an AirTag in a particular spot, you will stop receiving notifications as you move out of range of it. But if you are traveling home (for example) and you keep getting AirTag notifications? Then it’s likely the AirTag is on you or your vehicle. This is when you need to immediately stop and start searching for it.

How to find the AirTag

When you tap on the notification that an AirTag is nearby, you will be given the option to play a sound. This will help you to locate the AirTag. If you see it moving along the same route, it’s on you. Start searching. Don’t go home until you’ve found it. Your home address is most likely what the AirTag owner is wanting.

How to tell if an AirTag is tracking you with your Android device

In response to the growing illegal use of AirTags and the criticism leveled at it by privacy groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Apple brought out an AirTag scanner app for Android phones. It’s not as feature-rich as you would find on an iPhone, mainly because Android phones don’t have access to the Find My network. Plus, it doesn’t work in the background automatically and ping you when it finds something – you have to manually scan your surroundings yourself.

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 in different directions. If it detects something, it will show you on the screen. But it won’t show you where it is — only that it is there somewhere! This is the most frustrating part about it, and it doesn’t distinguish between legitimate AirTags being used by people and ones being used to track people.

What to do if you find an unauthorized AirTag

If you do find an AirTag, first of all, don’t panic. As we said previously, somebody innocent could have dropped it and marked it as lost. If so, well done. You’ll become their new best friend when you return it. However, if you find it in your coat pocket or attached to your car, then we can safely assume that there are devious forces at work here.

Apple recommends you do the following:

  • Put on a pair of latex gloves (or any gloves, if you don’t have latex ones to hand). This is to preserve any possible DNA evidence, such as 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 the 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), then you need to assume that someone has simply lost it. In that case, finding the owner is very simple.

Hold your iPhone or NFC-enabled Android phone near the AirTag, and you will be redirected to an Apple page. There, you will see if the owner has marked the AirTag as lost, as well as 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 will need to wait until the person marks the AirTag as lost. Then they will put contact details on the screen for the AirTag to be returned. In the meantime, it would be prudent to remove the battery to prevent tracking and reinsert the battery every few hours for a couple of minutes to check the AirTag’s status.


Read more: The best Apple AirTags alternatives

FAQs

When the AirTag was first released, it was three days. Apple has now shortened it to 24 hours for safety reasons.

About 30 feet. But it comes into range again when it finds another iPhone to pick up the signal.

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 you are in a busy area with potentially lots of iPhones, your location can be updated every minute or two.

Yes, an AirTag can be used to track anyone or anything. They can place the AirTag in their pocket or bag.

No, two iPhones cannot track the same AirTag.