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What to do if you see 'Item Detected Near You' on your iPhone

If you see 'Item Detected Near You' on your iPhone, an AirTag or a peripheral that works with Apple's "Find My" network is probably with you. Here's what to do if you're borrowing AirTags or a "Find My" item, if it's a mistake — or if you're being tracked.

Apple's 'Item Detected Near You' notification requires iOS 14.5, or iPadOS 14.5 or later. And it can mean that any Find My network accessory is with you, perhaps attached to an item like AirPods that you've borrowed.

Assuming it's an AirTag, though, when you see this notification you will get a Continue, and then the option to Play Sound. Tap that and, except under specific circumstances, the AirTag will play a sound to help you find it.

If you can't get a sound, there are four possibilities:

  1. The AirTag isn't with you anymore
  2. The AirTag, and you, are in range of the AirTag's registered owner
  3. Its identifier may have changed
  4. The AirTag battery could be dead

The first of those is perhaps the most surprising, but it can happen that an AirTag is moved just as the notification sounds. If you have been with a family member, for instance, and then you go your separate ways, you may have been with them long enough to trigger the notification.

If you know that's what has happened, you can dismiss the notification.

The possibility about a changed identifier takes a little more time. Apple's Find My network uses an identifier to determine whether it's the same AirTag that's been moving with you.

If it's been with you for long enough, specifically if it has been overnight, then the identifier may have changed. In that case, you can wait to see if you get another notification later.

When you've borrowed an item with an AirTag

After you've had the notification and tapped Continue, you also get the option to Pause Safety Alerts. Tapping this gets you the option of either turning off these warning notifications for a day — or forever.

This is what you do when the AirTag is in, say, a suitcase that a family member has loaned you. You want to get them their AirTag back, but you're currently in Honolulu so it's going to have to wait.

When you have not borrowed an item with an AirTag

If you get this notification and you know you haven't borrowed anything that could have an AirTag in it, there are two possibilities.

You may well have just found a lost AirTag. Or it could be that the AirTag has been planted on you for tracking.

To find out if it's lost, hold your iPhone over the AirTag. It has to be the top of your iPhone, so that the end with the notch is by the device.

You'll get a notification about the AirTag and when you tap it, you're taken to a website that lists details about it. There are two key pieces of information presented, which are the AirTag's serial number, and whether it's been lost.

If it's been lost, and the owner has marked it as such, you'll hopefully also see a note from them about how to get in touch.

Hold your iPhone near the lost AirTag and you'll see at least identification, hopefully also a message about how to get it back to its owner

When you're being tracked

If you've ruled out that it's lost and you know you didn't borrow it, you need to disable the AirTag that may have been tracking you. After you get the 'Item Detected' notification and have tapped Continue, you will get an option called Instructions to Disable.

You're then taken through steps to switch off this AirTag and prevent it following you.

That stops the tracking, but of course it may not resolve the issue. Apple advises that if you find you're being tracked and you feel your safety is at risk, you should contact the police. Do not destroy the now-deactivated tag!

If you provide the AirTag itself, or it's serial number — which you found through holding your iPhone over the device — Apple will then work with local police.

When you don't see a notification

As well as the 'Item Detected Near You' notification on your iPhone, there is a second method Apple uses to warn you. If you don't see the notification for any reason, the AirTag itself will make a sound to alert you.

Specifically, if any AirTag is separated from its registered owner for long enough, that AirTag will make a very clear and startlingly loud sound.

It's not clear just how long Apple regards as long enough, but that is deliberate. Apple can set that time to however long it chooses and it does not notify users about it. That's so that bad actors can't leverage the information and somehow know when to rotate which AirTag tracks you.