How to know if an AirTag is tracking you

Recently, AirTags have sparked both safety and privacy concerns. These devices have been present in reports of stalking, harassment, and threats. Criminals can attach AirTags to license plates and purses, as well as inside homes and work areas. This, often illegal, tracking poses a severe threat to personal privacy and security.

To check if an AirTag is tracking you, use the “Find My” app on your iPhone. If you’re using a non-Apple device, download a third-party app. AirTags can be spotted nearby, even if not connected to your account. Watch out for notifications—they might mean someone’s trying to track you without permission.

In short, how to know if an AirTag is tracking you:

  • Understand how AirTags work
  • On iPhone:
    • Do not ignore “AirTag found moving with you” notifications
    • Pay attention to AirTag sounds and other sounds you don’t recognize
  • On Android:
    • Enable Unknown Tracker Alerts
    • Check for unknown AirTags
    • Download the Tracker Detect app for Android

Understand how AirTags work

Apple AirTags are small, battery-operated discs that Apple markets to track easily lost objects like keys or hand luggage. Users can follow these tags and locate them on a map anywhere in the world that has enough other Apple users.

Rather than relying on GPS, Apple AirTags work by broadcasting Bluetooth signals. These signals are detectable by nearby devices in Apple’s “Find My” network and can be used to send notifications to other Apple devices, whether iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch.

The “Find My” network doesn’t use satellites like conventional, GPS-based tracking. Instead, it taps into an expansive network of hundreds of millions of Apple products. An AirTag’s location tracking depends on whether an iPhone or Android device is available. Location updates could be less precise in areas with less Apple-device coverage.

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How to know if an AirTag is tracking you if you own an iPhone

Fortunately, your iPhone is designed to automatically alert you if an AirTag is tracking you. However, setting up your phone correctly is crucial for this feature to work effectively. Let’s delve into the process:

Do not ignore “AirTag found moving with you” notifications

If you own an iPhone and an AirTag is tracking you, your phone may alert you of an “AirTag found moving with you.” This will happen if these things are true:

The AirTag is separated from its owner.
Your iPhone is awake.
This can also happen with other “Find My” network accessories, like AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max. These items, including AirTags, can all play a sound when they’re moved while separated from their owners.

If you own an iPhone, things are easier. If an AirTag is tracking you, your phone might notify you with an “AirTag found moving with you” alert. This alert occurs under the following conditions:

  • The AirTag is detached from its owner.
  • Your iPhone is active.
  • Your iPhone is updated to iOS 14 or later. 
  • Your tracking notifications are on.

Make sure to turn on the following tracking notifications. These must be on for the “AirTag found moving with you” alert to work:

  1. Location services. Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > turn on Location Services.
  2. Find My iPhone and Significant Locations. Go to System Services > Turn on both Find My iPhone and Significant Locations.
  3. Bluetooth: Settings > Bluetooth > turn on Bluetooth on.
  4. Tracking Notifications: Open “Find My” app > tap on yourself > turn on Tracking Notifications.

Pay attention to AirTag sounds and other sounds you don’t recognize

If an AirTag gets separated from its owner and is seen moving with you over time, the AirTag should emit a sound to alert you that it’s moving with you.

If you hear an AirTag – or beeping sound you don’t recognize – do the following:

  1. Make sure the tracking notifications described in the previous sections are on.
  2. Open the” Find My” app on your device and check to see if an AirTag is found.
    • Open the “Find My app and tap on “items.”
    • Tap items that can track me.
    • Choose “identify found item then enable precision finding or use precision finding.”
  3. Use the Play Sound feature
    • Access the “items” tab in the “Find My” app.
    • Find the AirTag and tap to view its details.
    • Look for the “play sound” or “tap play sound” option.
    • Tap it and pay attention to the sounds emitted by the AirTag.
  4. Check your belongings. AirTags are quite small, so the AirTag could be hidden in your jacket, bag, small pockets, or even wallet. Use the “Find My” app to locate it.

Stalkers may take steps to avoid detection, such as removing the speaker to turn off the AirTag’s sound. While removing the speaker from an AirTag doesn’t make it entirely undetectable, it does make it harder for the “Find My” app to pinpoint its exact location.

Watch the video below to learn how to recognize the sound of an airtag.

How to know if an AirTag is tracking you if you own an Android device

Devices running Android 12 and newer can automatically detect unknown AirTags and notify you. For Android devices running older versions of Android, you can use the Tracker Detect app from the Google Play Store to manually scan for unknown trackers.

To enable unknown tracker alerts on Android 12 and newer:

Enable Unknown Tracker Alerts on an Android device

  1. Open the Settings app > “safety & emergency > unknown tracker alerts.”
  2. Toggle on “allow alerts.”

Check for unknown AirTags

  1. Open the Settings app > safety & emergency > unknown tracker alerts >scan.”

Fortunately for users of older versions of Android, there are third-party apps available on the Google Play Store that offer similar functionalities. They locate Bluetooth devices, including AirTags. Consider apps like Tracker Detect – Anti Spy Detection, Find My Bluetooth Devices – Finder for AirPod, or Bluetooth Scanner – Bluetooth finder.

Download the Tracker Detect app for Android

  1. Download the Tracker Detect app from the Google Play Store.
  2. Open the app and agree to the terms and conditions.
  3. Tap the “scan” button to search for nearby AirTags.

These apps will scan for nearby AirTags and other tracking devices. They’ll warn you with an alert like “unknown accessory was detected” if there’s a Bluetooth device in your vicinity. Once you know this, you can take steps to disable or neutralize the tracker.  

Apple’s “Find My” network only works with Apple devices. Apple still needs to make the necessary APIs available to the general public. This will allow other developers to create AirTag detection apps. As a result of these limitations, Android users are at higher risk of AirTag stalking than iPhone users. It’s important to note that third-party apps will do a limited job detecting AirTags. They are less reliable than the built-in detection system on an iPhone.

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What to do if you find an AirTag tracking you

Disable unknown AirTags immediately

Apple devices have a built-in feature called “unwanted tracking alerts” that can detect AirTags. 

  1. Go to Settings > “privacy” > “location services” > “Find My” > “items” > “notify when found.” 
  2. If you want to manually scan for nearby AirTags, you can tap on the “scan now button.

Alternatively, Android devices have third-party apps, like Tracker Detect, which can do the same.

If you find an unknown AirTag on your device, you need to remove the battery to disable it. To do this, follow these steps:

Locate and examine the AirTag:

  1. Wear latex gloves to handle the AirTag if possible.
  2. Grasp the steel cover that bears the Apple logo.
  3. Rotate the cover counterclockwise until it clicks.
  4. Remove the steel cover to reveal the battery.
  5. Disable the AirTag by removing the “storm” or battery.

Update the software of your mobile device

In response to security and privacy concerns concerning its AirTags, Apple has announced extra privacy measures. To enhance protection, both Apple and Google are working on the following:

Apple (updated with iOS 14 or later)

  1. Unique Bluetooth identifiers: Each AirTag will have a unique identifier. This can help identify and disable trackers used for malicious purposes.
  2. New law enforcement procedures: New procedures will better deal with misuse. These measures include AI, mobile device forensics, and signal intelligence.

Android (Android 6 or later)

  1. Improved notifications: This new feature is expected to provide more detailed notifications about detected AirTags, including their serial number and the last time they were seen.
  2. More granular control: Users will have more granular control over the feature, allowing them to choose when and where it is enabled.
  3. Cross-platform compatibility: The feature is expected to be compatible with Android devices running Android 6 or later.

Report suspicious activity

If you know an AirTag is tracking you, report it. If you suspect tracking, use your smartphone to obtain the owner’s details. Do the following:

  1. Position the AirTag close to the top of your smartphone.
  2. Tap on the notification that appears. The notification will direct you to a webpage displaying the AirTag’s serial number and the last four digits of the AirTag owner’s phone number.
  3. Reach out to Apple or your local police department. 

This information will help law enforcement to investigate the situation. They may even be able to identify the perpetrator. 

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FAQ

How do I scan for AirTags?

Find AirTags and other Bluetooth trackers on Android by using the Tracker Detect app. Download the Tracker Detect app from the Google Play Store. Open the application and agree to the terms and conditions. Tap the blue “scan” button to search for nearby items. 

How do I disable an AirTag that isn’t mine?

How to disable an unknown AirTag: when you see a notification on the display of your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch saying “AirTag found moving with you,” tap the notification. Now choose “continue.” To disable the AirTag, tap “instructions to disable AirTag,” and follow the onscreen steps. 

How do I find AirTags that are not mine?

You can find AirTags through the “Find My” app on an Apple device. Google has built a similar anti-stalking feature into Android. From Settings, choose “safety and emergency,” and then “unknown tracker alerts.” You can enable or disable automatic scanning, as well as run a manual scan to see if an unknown AirTag has been traveling along with you. 

What app can detect AirTags?

Tracker Detect, an official Apple app on the Google Play Store, allows people who don’t own any Apple devices to scan for nearby AirTags, in case someone is using the tracking device to follow them around. 

How do I scan for AirTags on my iPhone?

To scan for AirTags on your iPhone, open the “Find My” app and tap on the “items” tab to locate and identify nearby AirTags.

​​How long does the AirTag battery last?

​​Apple claims that the battery of an AirTag should last about one year, but mileage may vary depending on how active a given AirTag has been over its life. 

How often does an AirTag update its location?

If your AirTag is in a busy area, the system updates its location every minute or two. However, if it’s away from any nearby iPhones, the chances of getting an updated AirTag location are pretty slim. If you plan to track an object in real time, an AirTag isn’t ideal for you. 

Why did I get a tracking notification on my iPhone?

If you’ve given someone permission to track you, or someone is letting you track them, then they can send you a  notification to alert you that they have done so. This feature is to notify you if there’s a device like an AirTag tracking you. 

Will my iPhone detect an AirTag?

Yes, iPhones are able to detect if there is an AirTag nearby by scanning for them in the “Find My” app. However, if the person who owns the AirTag is with you, then it will not set off an alert because the parent device that it was set up with is near it. 

Can police track the AirTag owner?

​​Every AirTag has a unique serial number, and paired AirTags are associated with an Apple ID. Apple can provide the paired account details in response to a subpoena or valid request from law enforcement. 

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