How to Fix Phantom AirTag Alerts on iPhone
According to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal, Apple may have become a bit overzealous with notifying users when they are possibly being followed around by an AirTag tracker, to the point that iPhone owners sometimes receive alerts even when there’s no AirTag to be found anywhere around them.
Apple launched the AirTag for $29 USD ($39 CAD) in April 2021 as a tracking device to help customers locate items using the company’s Find My network, which boasts over one billion Apple devices globally.
How a product designed for live location tracking can take a turn for the worse, being used to stalk individuals or track valuables, is pretty self-explanatory.
Customers have become especially nervous around the possibility of being tracked by an AirTag following reports of a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model being followed around New York City for nearly five hours after someone slipped an AirTag into her coat pocket, and instances of Apple’s AirTags being used to mark and track cars for theft.
In response, Apple acknowledged the safety concerns arising from the use of AirTags and addressed them by designing a system that notifies users if an AirTag they don’t own is near them for an extended period of time, and more.
If your iPhone detects that an unknown AirTag is moving with you, you are alerted and provided with a map of the simultaneous movement paths. You can even sound the offending AirTag’s internal alarm to locate it. Just last week, Apple introduced an updated tracking sound to make it easier to find unknown AirTags.
Unfortunately, some iPhone users have been getting errant alerts for nearby AirTags in recent weeks.
Marcus Geisler, a 45-year-old consumer researcher from Toronto, received a safety alert on his iPhone warning him of an unknown AirTag nearby. “The AirTag’s pattern of movement on the map looked super weird,” he said. “I thought maybe my neighbour’s dog accidentally swallowed it.” Geisler searched all over for an AirTag but didn’t find one anywhere.
25-year-old Ryan McClain from Indianapolis discovered a similar alert when he woke up one day in early April. “It was a shock to my morning,” he said. “I thought, ‘Who would want to stalk me? Who would want to hurt me?'”
McClain searched for the supposed offender to no avail, had a mechanic scour his car, and even asked his neighbours if they owned an AirTag his iPhone could have mistakenly detected — they didn’t. The event left McClain’s fiancée on edge for the next day, hoping the alert was just a glitch of some sort.
“It was scary,” said Natalia Garcia, a 24-year-old nonprofit worker who saw an alert on her iPhone after a night out in downtown Chicago. “I checked my purse, looked all around to make sure no one put an AirTag on me,” she said.
When Garcia tried to trigger the unknown AirTag’s alarm sound, the Find My app said “AirTag Not Reachable.”
Just how widespread this issue of rogue AirTag alerts isn’t quite clear at this point, but there have been several reports from users on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and elsewhere.
How to Fix Phantom Apple AirTag Alerts on your iPhone
An Apple spokesman said that alerts for phantom AirTags could be a result of an iPhone receiving area Wi-Fi signals that temporarily confused its location services.
According to the spokesman, one potential fix for the issue would be to go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services on your iPhone and toggle the switch off and on while Wi-Fi is enabled.
The Apple spokesman added that in more densely populated areas, AirTags owned by others in your vicinity could inadvertently trigger an alert on your iPhone.