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How to know if an Apple AirTag is tracking you
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?
- On an iPhone: 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.
- On 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 police immediately.
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How to know if an AirTag is tracking you
It’s easy to detect an AirTag in the wild if you have an iPhone. When an AirTag registered to someone else is detected near you for a base length of time, you’ll automatically receive a notification. 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 definitely be be concerned if an AirTag stays with you as you move. If something is lost, it’s usually stationary, you’ll stop receiving notifications when you move out of Bluetooth range. When notifications are persistent, it’s likely the AirTag is with you or your vehicle. Search for it right away, 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
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 have to 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 being used to stalk you, which could be a problem if your household has a mix of Apple and Android users.
What to do if you find an unauthorized AirTag
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 police immediately.
How to find the owner of an AirTag
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, 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.
If you don’t recognize the partial phone number, you’ll need to 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, it might be prudent to remove the battery to prevent tracking, and reinsert it every few hours as necessary check the AirTag’s status.
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, 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.