Imagine having the time of your life at Disney World when a notification on your phone makes your stomach sink. That’s what happened to a family in Tennessee when their teenage daughter received an iPhone alert that a… Apple AirTag went with her. Sure, it could be a false alarm, but it could also mean someone put a Bluetooth tracker in her purse to stalk her.
It’s a realistic fear. Look at all the stories of women who found out that someone used an AirTag to track their every move. A woman found an Apple AirTag on the underside of her front wheel after she got out of a bar† After analyzing 150 police reports on AirTags, Motherboard identified 50 cases where women found out someone was tracking them with an Apple AirTag they didn’t own.
While Apple didn’t create AirTags as spyware tools, these gadgets can facilitate stalking, harassment, and even human trafficking. The Tennessean family was completely panicked when they learned that an AirTag was tracking their 16-year-old daughter. Unfortunately, none of them could find the hidden AirTag.
How to find hidden trackers
Maybe you’ve never bought a Bluetooth tracker before, so you don’t think you need to worry about that. Not true. Some ghoul you come across may want to pack a tracker in your purse or car. Criminals use AirTags to steal cars, so be careful†
Fortunately, Apple warns you when you are being tracked. In addition to a warning sound, you will also receive a notification that looks like this on your iPhone:
If you have an Android device, you need to download detect tracker† If the app detects an AirTag near you for at least 10 minutes, it will play a sound. Download the free Tracker Detect app for: android here†
There is only one warning: this app does not send automatic alerts. You must run scans manually.
Another way to tell if someone is following you is to check your pockets and bags when you go out. AirTags are small, so people can slip them into hidden crevices without you noticing. Zip up your wallet and keep it close at hand.
You should even look over your car for hidden Bluetooth trackers under your vehicle or on wheels. Sure, it’s annoying, but it’s better to err on the side of caution. Fortunately, Apple makes it even easier for you to find hidden Bluetooth trackers.
A pair of silver liners
Apple is aware of the many privacy issues. It is working on updates that will make it easier for you to find hidden AirTags. Here are a few upcoming updates that you should be aware of:
- Add Privacy Alerts When People Set AirTags† When someone sets up their AirTag for the first time, they are reminded that AirTag is for asset tracking nothing but† Apple will make it clear that using AirTags to stalk people is a crime in many places worldwide.
- Troubleshooting Alert Issues: You may get a vague warning that says ‘Unknown accessory detected’. Apple fixes this problem so you know exactly what kind of device is tracking you.
- An updated support article on unwanted tracking: Apple has updated its page on AirTag, AirPods and the entire Find My network. Now you can see which accessories can trigger a tracking alert, instructions on what to do if you get an alert, and more. Tap or click here for the new support article on unwanted tracking†
- Find precision: This feature helps you find an unknown AirTag so you don’t have to mess around. Precision Finding uses your smartphone’s complex inner machinery to help you locate the tracker with – you guessed it – absolute precision.
Apple recently rolled out a firmware update that makes audible alerts even louder. In the past, people have missed notifications because the alert sound was too soft. Thanks to Apple’s security update, you can hear the warning.
This means you won’t miss a notification that an AirTag is tracking you, so you can act faster to protect yourself. Here’s everything you need to know about the signature sound that lets you know someone is following you†
What this means for you – and what you can do about it?
If you get a notification that an AirTag is watching you, open the Find My app. Tap the warning, press Continue > Play Sound† Listen to the distinctive warning sound. You can play it again if you need more time to find the hidden AirTag.
Maybe you didn’t hear a warning, but you found an AirTag anyway. You can use an iPhone or Android to see if the owner has marked it as lost.
Hold the top of your iPhone or Android near the white side of the AirTag. Tap it and you’ll be taken to a website with the AirTag serial number and the last four digits of the owner’s phone number.
This is what the page looks like:
If the owner has marked the AirTag as lost, you will see their contact details. Then you may not see anything anymore. If you think this AirTag is following you or someone else without permission, tap Instructions to disable: to turn it off.
Keep this warning in mind
Let’s return to the Tennessean family who visit Disney World. Remember they never found a hidden AirTag. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office has a surprising hypothesis.
Officers say there is no culprit. Maybe there wasn’t a creepy stalker putting an AirTag in the girl’s bag. Maybe the alert went off on her phone because Disney World is full of people with Apple products all around.
So it is likely that these were erroneous warnings. So remember: false alerts are possible. But it’s good to be safe, so you should bookmark this page and share it with anyone concerned about being followed by creepy strangers.
Now that you know you can find hidden trackers, here are a few other cybersecurity tips to check out
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