How to find out if an AirTag is tracking you

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  • Posted in Tech News
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Hand putting an AirTag in a purse

Maria Diaz | ZDNET

An Apple AirTag can be useful to help you keep track of your most important items like keys, wallets, remotes, and even bikes. But reports that they were being used to track people without their consent cast a negative shadow on the use and application of them. 

Also: 5 ways AirTags can simplify your life

This triggered Apple to make significant changes into what AirTags can be used for and how, adding disclosures to AirTag owners reiterating that these trackers are only for tracking their belongings and never unwanted tracking of others, and the ability for people to detect when an AirTag has been moving with them.

How to know if an AirTag is tracking you

Phone with notification that AirTag was detected

Malorny via Getty Images | Apple | ZDNET

If you’re suspicious that someone may be tracking your movements using an AirTag, your iPhone may alert you before you have to do anything. If someone is tracking you without permission and you feel you may be in danger, contact law enforcement to get more information on the AirTag’s owner from Apple.

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:

  1. The AirTag is separated from its owner
  2. Your iPhone is awake
  3. The AirTag emits a sound when moved 

This can also happen with other Find My network accessories, like AirPods, AirPods Pro, or AirPods Max. These items will all play a sound when they’re moved while separated from their owners.

Notification that an AirTag was found moving with you

Apple | ZDNET

If you don’t receive an alert you may need to follow these steps to ensure your tracking notifications are turned on:

  1. Go to Settings and select Privacy
  2. Tap on Location Services and turn on Location Services
  3. Go to System Services
  4.  Turn on both Find My iPhone and Significant Locations
  5. Go back to Settings and select Bluetooth
  6. Turn on Bluetooth 
  7. Finally, go to the Find My app and tap on yourself
  8. Turn on Tracking Notifications

Settings for AirTag notification

Maria Diaz | ZDNET
Settings for AirTag notification

Maria Diaz | ZDNET

When AirTags are separated from their owners, they will play a sound when moved to make it easier for others to find them. If you hear an AirTag or another sound you can’t recognize and believe it could be an AirTag, you can open the Find My app after ensuring that Step 2 is complete and see if the AirTag is found.

Also: How to find and remove spyware from your phone

Check your belongings for the AirTag, making sure to pat down jackets and bags, and checking the pockets on your pants, purse, and wallet. 

If you’re checking the Find My app after being alerted that an AirTag was traveling with you, you can play a sound on the device to find it more easily. 

Much like tracking your own AirTag, go to the Find My app by tapping on the alert, tap continue and then Find Nearby. Move around the space, making sure to follow the steps on the screen. This feature is only available on iPhones 11, 12, 13, and 14 with ultra-wideband technology.

Play a sound on AirTag

Apple | ZDNET

If you’re unable to play a sound from the Find My app, there’s a good possibility that the AirTag isn’t with you anymore and your iPhone can’t find it nearby. 

Also: Attention Apple AirTag users: Don’t ignore this warning

The Play a Sound option is only available to you is the AirTag owner isn’t nearby and their Apple device isn’t within range. 

Once you have eyes on the AirTag, you can use your iPhone or any other NFC-enabled smartphone to see the AirTag information. Hold the top of your iPhone near the white side of the found AirTag and wait for your phone to recognize it.

A notification appears with a website that will have the AirTag’s serial number and the last four digits of the owner’s phone number. 

AirTag NFC info

Maria Diaz | ZDNET

If this is a lost AirTag, the owner might have added their contact information to get in touch with the finder.

Disabling an AirTag will make it so the owner can’t see its current location nor get updates for it. 

To disable the AirTag, you just need to remove the battery. You can do this by pushing down and twisting the cover counterclockwise to open the AirTag and then take out the battery.

Disabled AirTag

Maria Diaz | ZDNET

If you’re concerned about unwanted tracking or fear for your safety, take screenshots of this process and give the disabled AirTag to authorities.

FAQ

How do I know if an AirTag is tracking me on Android?

An AirTag can move with you and send tracking data to the owner regardless of whether you have an iPhone or not, but you won’t get an alert of it if you have an Android phone. 

Also: The best GPS trackers for kids with real-time location tracking

If you are an Android user, you can download the Tracker Detect app from the Google Play store to find trackers that are compatible with Apple’s Find My network, are within Bluetooth range of your phone, and have been separated from their owner. The app will let you scan for the tracker and play a sound from it to find it.

Do AirTags have GPS? 

AirTag doesn’t have GPS. Instead, it uses the Find My network of almost two billion iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and Macs. It sends an anonymous Bluetooth signal that can be picked up by any one of these devices in the Find My network that are within 30 feet. Then, these devices will send the AirTag’s location to iCloud, which will allow users to see it in their own Find My app. 

How do I stop an AirTag from tracking me?

The easiest way to stop an AirTrack from tracking you is to remove the battery from it, this will disable the AirTag and its owner won’t be able to see any tracking information. It’s important to note that the owner won’t get a notification that the AirTag was disabled.

Can anyone track my Apple AirTag?

Apple AirTags are designed to frequently change their unique Bluetooth identifiers, and the Find My network, which makes it possible for users to track AirTags miles beyond Bluetooth range, features end-to-end encryption. 

Though someone else won’t be able to track your AirTag, they can hear it if it’s separated from you and moving, and they can see any contact information you choose to include if the finder uses NFC.

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