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How to find out if an AirTag is tracking you

Apple's handy trackers have been used to track people's location against their consent, but there's a way to determine if an AirTag is tracking you. Here's what to know.
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer
Hand putting an AirTag in a purse
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

An Apple AirTag is a useful device that helps you keep track of your most important items like keys, wallets, remotes, and even bicycles. However, reports of AirTags being used to track people without their consent cast a shadow on their use and application. 

Also: The best AirTag for your wallet is flat, rechargeable, and isn't made by Apple

This is why Apple made significant changes to what and how AirTags can be used. Apple began giving disclosures to AirTag owners, reiterating that these trackers are only for tracking their belongings and never for unwanted tracking of others. The company then added the ability for iPhone users to see when an AirTag has been detected to be moving with them. Both iOS and Android devices now alert their owners when an unknown Bluetooth tracker is found moving with them.

How to know if an AirTag is tracking you

What you'll need: An iPhone or an Android phone. We'll detail what it looks like on an iPhone when an AirTag tracks you. 

If you suspect someone is tracking your movements using an AirTag, your iOS or Android phone 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.

Also: How to clear the cache on your iPhone

1. You may receive an alert on your iPhone

If you own an iPhone and it detects and AirTag, 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.

This can also happen with other Find My Network accessories, like AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, and others. AirTags, second-generation AirPods Pro, and other Find My items can all play a sound when they're moved while separated from their owners.

Notification that an AirTag was found moving with you

This is the notification that an AirTag is found moving with you.


2. Check that your Tracking Notifications are on

If you don't receive an alert of an unknown AirTag nearby when you know there is one, you may need to follow these steps to ensure your tracking notifications are turned on:

  1. Go to Settings and select Privacy & Security.
  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, the Me tab. 
  8. Turn on Tracking Notifications.
  9. Make sure Airplane Mode is off, or you won't get notifications.
Settings for AirTag notification

In System Services, we're going to enable Tracking Notifications.

Screenshot by Maria Diaz/ZDNET

3. Check the Find My app

When an AirTag is separated from its owner, it may play a sound when moved to make it easier for others to find it. If you hear an AirTag -- or another sound you can't recognize that you believe could be an AirTag -- you can open the Find My app on your Apple device. Then check the app to see if an AirTag is found.

Also: The best Bluetooth trackers you can buy

Check your belongings for the hidden AirTag, making sure to pat down jackets and bags, and thoroughly check your pockets, purse, and wallet. 

4. Play a sound on AirTag

If you're checking the Find My app after being alerted that an AirTag is traveling with you, you can tap "Play Sound" on the device to find it more easily. 

Similar to how you would track your own AirTag, you can go to the Find My app by tapping on the alert on your iPhone, tapping "Continue", and then "Find Nearby". Move around your space, following the steps on the screen. 

Also: The best GPS trackers for kids

The "Play a Sound" option is only available to you if the AirTag owner isn't nearby and their Apple device isn't within range. The precision finding feature is only available on iPhone 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15 models with ultra-wideband technology.

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

Play a sound on AirTag

5. If you find an AirTag that doesn't belong to you, check its information

Once you have eyes on the AirTag that doesn't belong to you, you can use your iPhone or any other NFC-enabled smartphone to see the AirTag information. Just hold the top of your phone near the white side of the found AirTag and wait for it to recognize it.

Also: How I created my own Apple AirTag with a Flipper Zero

A notification will appear when the NFC is scanned. You can tap on that notification to access a website with the AirTag's serial number and the last four digits of the owner's phone number. 

If this is a lost AirTag, the owner might have added their contact information to let the finder contact them. 

AirTag NFC info

Tapping an Apple AirTag with an NFC-enabled smartphone will let you see his information.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

6. Disable the AirTag

Disabling an AirTag will make it so the owner can't see its current location or get updates for it. 

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

Disabled AirTag
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

If you're concerned about unwanted tracking or fear for your safety, take screenshots throughout this process, including the device's serial number and owner's information, contact local law enforcement, and give the disabled AirTag to authorities. 


How to find out if an AirTag is tracking me on Android?

An unknown AirTag can move with you and send tracking data to the owner regardless of whether you have an iPhone or Android phone. 

If you are an Android user, Google added 'unknown tracker alerts' for Android 6.0 and newer users. So, if an AirTag is tracking you, your Android phone should let you know without having to install a separate Android app from the Google Play Store. This feature is available for Apple tracking devices and other Bluetooth trackers.

Also: The best AirTag accessories

If your Android smartphone detects an AirTag moving with you that has been separated from its owner, it will let you scan for the tracker and play a sound from it to find it -- all without ever letting the owner know it's been found. 

Do AirTags have GPS?

An 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 within 30 feet. Then, these devices will send the AirTag's location to iCloud, allowing users to see it in their own Find My app. 

Also: The best AirTag wallets

Because there are so many Apple devices located worldwide, Apple's Find My network has grown to be very reliable. Each Apple device is a node that grows the network, so a lost AirTag can transmit an accurate location without GPS if it's near an iPhone or other Find My network device. 

How do I stop an Apple AirTag from tracking me?

The easiest way to stop an AirTrack from tracking you is to remove its battery. This will disable the AirTag, and its owner won't be able to see any additional tracking information. 

Also: This accessory lets you add an AirTag to your Apple TV remote

The Find My network connects different iPhones and Apple devices to AirTags, to track their location. An AirTag can continue tracking you unless you disable it by removing its battery or if you permanently stay outside the Find My network, a difficult task with as many iPhone users as there are in the world. 

Can anyone track my Apple AirTag?

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

Also: 10 tiny 'everyday carry' tools and gadgets I keep on my keychain

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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