Why does Apple ID two-factor authentication show the wrong location?

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If you use two-factor authentication with your Apple ID account, you might notice the wrong location shows up when you try to sign in. Apple shows the location on a map so you can verify it’s you. But this isn’t very helpful when that map is wrong.

Of course, you still need to be wary of other people trying to gain access to your account. But if you’re signing in to Apple ID or iCloud when the alert pops up, it’s usually safe to allow access anyway. Here’s why.


What is two-factor authentication?

Two-factor authentication is an advanced security measure for your Apple ID account. It requests permission from another of your Apple devices before letting someone sign in. This makes it far more difficult for someone to access your account without your permission.

Two-factor authentication six-digit code
Two-factor authentication generates a unique six-digit code to use.

A map appears on your other Apple devices showing where the sign-in attempt came from. This is where the problem lies; the two-factor authentication map frequently shows the wrong location.

If you choose to allow access anyway, two-factor authentication presents you with a six-digit code to enter to be able to sign in. So even if you allow access to the wrong person, they can’t sign in without this unique code.

Why does two-factor authentication show the wrong location?

Unlike the Maps app on your Apple device, two-factor authentication doesn’t use Location Services to work out where you are. It uses your IP address instead. This means Apple can check your location even if your device doesn’t use GPS.

An IP address is a long code associated with your computer, smartphone, or tablet. When you connect to the Internet, it’s possible to find your approximate location by tracing the access point of your IP address.

Two-factor authentication map location alert
Two-factor authentication often gets your location wrong (I’m over 100 miles from London).

The issue is that the location associated with your IP address depends on your Internet server. Sometimes that server is tens or hundreds of miles away from your actual location.

This is why the location in two-factor authentication messages is often wrong.

If your Maps app is inaccurate as well, there must be a problem with your Location Services instead.

How do I fix the wrong location in two-factor authentication?

You don’t actually need to fix anything if two-factor authentication keeps showing you the wrong location. It’s better to learn the location of your IP address so you know what to expect from these alerts instead.

Visit iplocation.net to see the locations associated with your IP address. You’ll notice that there are several different databases, often with different locations. At the time of writing, Apple uses the DB-IP database.

IP address showing location from DB-IP database
Visit an IP database to check the location associated with your device.

You should see the same location in the DB-IP database as what shows up in your two-factor authentication alerts.

If you’re determined to fix the location, here are a couple of tips that might help.

Disable your VPN

A VPN creates a new IP address for your computer to use to protect your privacy. When this happens, it often looks as though you’re accessing the Internet from a different location. This is why you can use a VPN to access foreign websites.

If you use a VPN, disable it to fix the wrong location in your two-factor authentication alerts. Alternatively, see if you can edit the location in your VPN settings.

Try a different network

Your computer may connect to the Internet through a server hundreds of miles away. But a different Internet service provider might use a closer server.

Try connecting to a different Wi-Fi network to see if it changes your Internet access point. Or try using cellular data instead. You might find other networks that give you a more accurate location.

Don’t turn off two-factor authentication

You might feel tempted to disable two-factor authentication if the wrong location keeps showing up. This is a bad idea because it weakens the security of your account.

Even if you allow access to someone in the wrong location, two-factor authentication still asks them to enter a six-digit code. So you don’t need to worry about accidentally allowing access to the wrong people.

In contrast, without two-factor authentication turned on, someone can access your Apple ID account with nothing but your password. And you wouldn’t get an alert to find out they did it.

What should I do if two-factor authentication shows the wrong location?

Apple’s advice is to Allow two-factor authentication if you’re currently trying to sign in to your Apple ID, even if the location is wrong. We suggest that if the location is somewhere in the same country as you, it’s probably safe to allow access.

Apple ID website sign in window
Allow two-factor authentication when you’re trying to sign in to your Apple ID.

If you aren’t trying to sign in to your Apple ID when the alert shows up, tap Do Not Allow instead. This can only happen if someone else is trying to sign in to your account. When you tap Do Not Allow, it stops them in their tracks.

Keep your Apple ID account well protected

It’s important to keep your Apple ID account well protected. Not only does your account offer access to your App Store and iTunes purchases, but it contains personal and financial information about you as well.

Protecting your Apple ID with two-step verification is a good start—even if it often shows the wrong location. But there are lots of other steps you can take to protect your Apple ID account as well. These range from improving your password to avoiding phishing scams.

Check out this post for everything you need to know about locking down your Apple ID account.

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