How to handle ‘unknown accessory near you’ notifications

Feb 12, 2022, 5:00 AM
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 30: A key ring containing an AirTag attached to a rucksack inside the App...
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 30: A key ring containing an AirTag attached to a rucksack inside the Apple Store George Street on April 30, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. Apple's latest accessory, the AirTag is a small device that helps people keep track of belongings, using Apple's Find My network to locate lost items like keys, wallet, or a bag. (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)
(Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)

Q: What do I do when my iPhone gives me a notification “Unknown Accessory Detected Near You” and it looks like something is following me around?

A: This message is most likely being generated by the ‘Find My’ app that was initially designed to help users locate devices that they may have lost or misplaced. It has since evolved into a warning system for unauthorized or unknown devices as well.

The introduction of Apple’s AirTag, which is a small tracking device that can be attached to a keychain or backpack caused a lot of concern from privacy advocates for its nefarious stalking and tracking potential.

To help assure users that they could detect devices that aren’t necessarily associated with their phones, Apple expanded the ‘Find My’ network capabilities to include notifications of unknown items near you.

AirTag NotificationsThe alert system is designed to notify you of an AirTag that is near you but separated from its owner and will specifically use AirTag in the notification.

To ensure that your iPhone or iPad can alert you to any unwanted tracking devices, you’ll need to make sure you are running iOS 14.5 or later and make sure the following settings are in place:

  • Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services, and turn Location Services on.
  • Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services. Turn Find My iPhone on.
  • Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services. Turn Significant Locations on to be notified when you arrive at a significant location, such as your home.
  • Go to the Find My app, tap the Me tab, and turn Item Safety Alerts on.
  • Make sure Bluetooth is turned on in order to detect items

Also, an AirTag that has been separated from its owner for a period of time (8 to 24 hours) is designed to start emitting a sound to help locate it.

Unknown Accessory NotificationsThis more generic notification isn’t likely an AirTag and can be caused by any number of popular accessories such as most newer AirPod models and since Apple opened up the network to non-Apple devices in April of 2021, a number of other products.

Most newer Beats wireless audio products also work on the ‘Find My’ network (Apple owns Beats), but other earbuds from companies such as Belkin can also generate the ‘Unknown Accessory Detected Near You’ notification.

Trackers from a company called Chipolo as well as e-bikes from VanMoof and soon to be available backpacks from Targus are all capable of being detected on the ‘Find My’ network.

Why Is It Following Me?If the ‘Find My’ notification shows that the unknown device seems to be moving with you, it’s most likely someone that you are traveling with has one of the items, most likely earbuds of some sort, that was detected.

The ‘First seen with you’ timestamp may be helpful in determining the person that may have the device that’s being detected

Depending upon the device, you may be able to tap the ‘Learn About This Item’ to figure out what it may be or tap on the ‘Instructions to Disable item’ to keep the item from tracking your location.

If it turns out to be something that isn’t a cause for concern, you can pause the safety alerts to stop the notifications.

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How to handle ‘unknown accessory near you’ notifications