Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen


Apple's Find My iPhone service is a free service available to all iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad owners that can help you find your iDevice if it gets lost or stolen.  Find My iPhone uses WiFi triangulation and/or real-GPS tracking to locate your device and display it's location on the Me.com website or from another iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch using the Find My iPhone App.

We have several posts and pages here at GrownUpGeek.com regarding how to track in iPhone and difference between the Find my iPhone App and the Find my iPhone service, but we still get questions about the specifics of finding a stolen iPhone, what Find My iPhone can or cannot do, etc, so this page will provide some quick and easy answers to those common questions.  Although the term iPhone is used, most answers also apply to the iPad and iPod Touch.

 

Q: What is required for Find My iPhone to track or find my iPhone?

A: You must have previously configured the Find My iPhone service, Location Services must be enabled for Find My iPhone, the iPhone must be powered-on, the iPhone must be able to aquire a GPS signal OR location triangulation via cell-towers or WiFi, and the iPhone must be in a 3G service area or be connected to WiFi. 

Q: My iPhone was lost (or stolen) but I never setup an iCloud account or Find My iPhone - can I still track the location of my iPhone?

A: NO - Find my iPhone must be configured BEFORE your iPhone or device gets lost or stolen

 

Q: My iPhone was lost (or stolen) but location services was turned off - can I track my iPhone or enable location services remotely?

A: NO - Find My iPhone relies on location services.  There is no way to turn on location services remotely

 

Q: My iPhone was lost (or stolen) but I never setup an iCloud account or Find My iPhone - can I remotely activate tracking?

A: NO - Find My iPhone must be configured before your iPhone becomes lost or stolen

 

Q: If my iPhone is stolen and the thief disables Find My iPhone or erases/restores/wipes the iPhone, can it still be tracked?

A: NO - Once the Find My iPhone service or Location Services is disabled or if the iPhone/iPod touch/iPad is erased, it is no longer trackable by you

 

Q: If the theif removes the SIM card, can my iPhone still be tracked?

A: YES - If the iPhone is able to connect to Wifi, even without a SIM card, iCloud can still locate it. 

 

Q: If the battery dies on my lost or stolen iPhone or if the dirty-thief turns the iPhone off, can the iPhone still be located or tracked?

A: NO - The iPhone must be powered-on to be tracked

 

Q: If I did not setup Find My iPhone or if the thief disabled it, can the police/my provider still track my iPhone?

A: YES - The police and/or the telephone service provider (AT&T, Verizon, etc) can locate a phone (or, a 3G enabled iPad, not an iPod Touch) in emergency situations (they use their own services/systems, not Find My iPhone).  Key word of that sentence is "emergency situation". 

 

Q: I installed the Find My iPhone App on my iPhone so I can track it now right?

A: NO!  Tracking or locating an iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch is done via the Find My iPhone service, not the Find My iPhone App.  See this page to understand the differences: Find My iPhone App vs Service

 

Q: My iPhone was lost or stolen and when I track it with Find My iPhone it says 'offline' - Why?

A: The phone might be turned off, out of range of WiFi or 3G service, Find My iPhone or Location Services may have been disabled on the phone or the phone could have been wiped/erased/restored 

 

Q: Can I use the Find My iPhone service to track other phones or devices that aren't iPhones?

A: Find My iPhone can be used to track iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches, iMacs, and MacBooks with OS X Lion or Mountain Lion

 

Q: Does Find My iPhone display the history of the locations or track everywhere the iPhone has been?

A: Find My iPhone only displays the current location of the device by default.  If you put the phone in "lost mode" if it becomes lost or stolen, you will then be able to view the history of the phone's location.

 

Q: Will the person/theif with the iphone be notified when I track the phone?

A: If enabled, location services may display a tiny indicator near the clock.  The person can then look at the location settings screen and it will notify them if they are currently being located, or if they have been located within the previous 24 hours

 

Q: How accurate is the location tracking of Find My iPhone?

A: Find My iPhone accuracy ranges from a few feet to a few miles.  The size of the 'blue location circle' indicates the accuracy.  A small pinpoint circle indicates more accuracy, a larger circle indicates less accuracy

 

Q: Can I put Find My iPhone on my first Gen iPhone, my iPhone 3 or iPhone 3G?

A: NO - Find my iPhone only works on iPhone 3GS or newer (iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, 4S+), Newer iPod touches, all iPads, and iMacs/Macbooks running OS X Lion or newer

 

Q: Someone stole my iPhone.  Find My iPhone is showing me where the phone is, should I barge in and take back my phone? 

A: NO!  Seriously?!  Find my iPhone is intended to help you locate a LOST phone i.e.; if you left it at a restaurant.  Because the accuracy of Find My iPhone is not perfect, if you try confront a thief you run the risk of breaking down the wrong door, getting your ass-kicked or worse, a knife to the spleen or a bullet to the face.  Use some common sense and leave confronting criminals to the professionals.  

 

Got a question about tracking your lost or stolen device? Post a comment below.

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Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
How can I track my phone?
I lost my iPhone 5c last night. I just got it so I didn't have time to set up the iCloud or find my phone. I reported it stolen and the cops called a girl who thought she had seen it. She said she couldn't help. I think she has it, is there any other way to track it?
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: How can I track my phone?
Anonymous Visitor wrote:
is there any other way to track it?
No, That's why Find My iPhone is so great..and important.. When you buy your replacement, be sure to spend the 2 minutes required to setup iCloud and Find My iPhone...
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: How can I track my phone?
Thanks. What about meid number? Can I use that if they erased my iPhone?
Apple Eater (not verified)
Re: How can I track my phone?
Read the words.. on the page, above..
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
find a lost phone
i noticed a iphone in a disco i dnt no what to do..it is saying me to enter apple id and dont know wat to do? is it okay if i use ....suggest me some thing as there is no number or any details of the owner...
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: find a lost phone
Really?! You don't know what to do?! You take it back to where you found it and give it to the managment! Surely the first place the owner will go looking for it is where they lost it, and they will ask the management if anyone found it and turned it in. Holy christ! Are you really that horrible of a person?!
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Tracking an iPhone SIM card
Can a sim card be tracked when its in a phone
Apple Eater (not verified)
Re: Tracking an iPhone SIM card
Find My iPhone tracks the device it is configured for, regardless of what SIM is in it.
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
How to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
My iPhone 5s was stolen this morning and it is actively tracking. I placed in in Lost Mode and it is still updating every few minutes. My question is, once I start telling to to play sounds, can the thief turn my phone off once it is in Lost Mode? Or did apple program it so that the phone could not be turned off once reported lost? My thought is that after the first time I ping it the user will turn the phone off and I won't be able to ping it again if I don't hear it the first time. Any insight is greatly appreciated! -D
Anonymouse Visitor (not verified)
Re: How to track your stolen iPhone
It can still be turned off and the battery can still run down.
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
I lost my iphone 5s a week ago. The "find my iphone" was turned on, But since that time there is no location.. Probably it is turned off. If the finder/thief try to restore via itunes, can I find him after IP address or after wifi address? Or if he turn it on with an other sim card can I get location? Or just when it is connected to wifi/3G? And I have heard if they take it to an other country there is not much I can do.. Thank you for your help...
Apple Eater (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen

If your phone had iOS 8, he cannot restore without your iCloud password unless you disabled Activation Lock.
If you did not have iOS 8 then if he does a restore, your phone will be untrackable.

If he does not restore and puts in another SIM card, you will still be able to track it with Find My iPhone as long as the phone connects to (any) 3G or Wifi.

Even if they don't take it do another country, there isnt much you can do unless you plan to go bang down their door.. bearing in mind that the location that Find My iPhone shows may not be 100% accurate.. But, if they go to another country, as long as the phone connects to WiFi or 3G and is not restored, you will still be able to track it's location.

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
track a stolen iphone
Thank you very much for the quick respond.. I know there is not much I can do.. Sad It is on IOS 7. But If they try to restore on iTunes is something record the IP address? or wifi address or anything what I can use?
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: track a stolen iphone

ITunes will not record the IP or WiFI MAC or anything..
And even if it did, the IP and/or WiFi info would do you no good at all.. No matter what anyone tells you, you cannot "trace a person" with the IP address unless you get a court-order to force the ISP that owns the IP to give you the customer's info.. the MAC address is even more useless..

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: track a stolen iphone
Thank you...
Chase798 (not verified)
Friend who's iPhone 5s iOS 8 stolen from chevron bathroom
O.k, so I have a friend, ad her iPhone 5s CDMA ( Verizon) iOS 8 got stolen from a Cheveron bathroom yesterday ( Tuesday ) she saw the suspect ( a cleaning lady) come into the bathroom stall after her. The supposed thief was smart enough to disable LTE or turn it off, she has it set to where it will alert her husband when it connects so wifi/LTE. Please help!!! She need set phone and it has lots of stuff on it!!!
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: Friend who's iPhone 5s iOS 8 stolen from chevron bathroom
Chase798 wrote:

Please help!!! She need set phone and it has lots of stuff on it!!!

I'm not sure how you want us to help?

If she's got the alert function on, there isnt much else to do.. Another option is to put it into "lost mode" which will let you send a message to the phone and ask for it to be returned. Lost mode will also keep a history of it's location.

As far as her having "lots of stuff on it!!" - that should all be backed up.. either in iCloud or in iTunes on her Mac/PC .. If/when she gets a replacement, just "restore" and the new one will be just like the lost one.. If she does not have backups enabled.. well, then.. tough lesson learned..

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
Can we trace iPhone location using MAC address or ICCID? Please someone help me.
Apple Eater (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
No, you can't.. The police can and the phone company can, but usually won't unless it's a life & death situation. This is why Apple lets you do it for free with Find My iPhone as long as you spend the 30 seconds it takes to set it up.
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
How to find your iPhone
I had installed iCloud. But it function only for iOS 8 onward but my iPhone was stolen b4 I download it. For MAC address I really frustrated that police authorised seller of iPhone cant search it. They just said they dont know nothing. Do you have any way to find my iPhone?
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
Can the iPhone be located if the person turned the iPhone on with a sim placed inside without Internet? Or when the person reset the iPhone and used the same sim to activate it?
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Can I track my lost iPhone 5C?
i lost/stolen my iphone 5c last saturday and i dont know if i can still locate my iphone, i have my find my iphone app but i didnt activate it, but i have passcode lock on my screen, and also with my icloud account on, after i lost my iphone i want on to my icould lost mode but it says offline, i had to send a message use i can be reached if found i remember that i had my 3G mobile data on and also my WIFI on, what is my iphone is switched off or sim card out How can i locate my iphone, can anyone help me ?
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: Can I track my lost iPhone 5C?

If you go to the iCloud.com website and your phone shows as 'offline', then your Find My iPhone service (not the "app", very different! see this page difference between 'app' and 'service' ) is setup.

"Offline" means that the phone is either turned off, or unable to connect to WiFi/3G. If you have put your phone in Lost Mode, there is nothing else you can do but wait for it to be turned on/connect to the internet. I think there is also an option on the Find My iPhone page to notify you when it comes online. If/when it comes online you will be able to track it's location.. But if you think it's been stolen, it's probably not a good idea to go bang on the thief's door and demand your phone back. That's a great way to get stabbed in the ear.

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Tracking an iPhone
My friend has an IPhone 5. The service is in her boyfriends name. They broke up and she still has the phone. He has already disabled the phone so that she can ONLY receive calls from him. Can the phone be tracked to a specific location by him? I'm concerned for her safety.
iphone owner (not verified)
Re: Tracking an iPhone
If he set it up with something like Find My Iphone beforehand, then yes he can very simply track her every location. But why on earth would she keep a phone that only receives calls from an ex-boyfriend? That's stupid! Tell her to sell it and go get her own phone!
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Tracking an iPhone
First, this just happened in the last 24 hrs and second, it was just a thought/worry of MINE. I appreciate your response.
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
My iphone was stolen
I had lost my Iphone 5s last week. And I cant detect it at icloud. And Im sure that the motherfucker theft has already on the flight mode to disable any data. So, should I report to a police, or just wait till he off the flight mode? Cause as I know, anyone who take iphone 5s disabled to do anything cause he should enter the apple ID and password. Anyone help please? Sobbss
OMKAR KAJALE (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
STOLEN IPHONE 5 16GBBLACK
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Track my iPhone 5 with iOS 7

I lost my iPhone 5S today with iOS7 installed. The phone is turned off because the battery died before I lost it (I watched it power down). I've retraced all my steps, tore apart everything, it's just gone - and it was in a somewhat public place, although no one else seemed to be in the building at the time.

Here's my question. I have an old iPhone 4S that I can activate for now. But, if someone does find my lost phone, will I get notified? I initiated the Lost Phone feature on Find My iPhone to receive a notification if it connects to the internet, but if I activate the old phone then it won't be able to use the cell-tower when it turns on next, right? (Or does it until the cell company notifies it that it is deactivated?) Assuming it can only connect via wifi, won't it be impossible for that to happen if I have a pin set on the lock screen since there will be no way for the user to select a wifi network?

Apple Eater (not verified)
Re: Track my iPhone 5 with iOS 7
For the Find My iphone notifcation to be sent the phone has to be able to connect to the internet either by WiFi or 3G .. if you disable the 3G by activating the number on a different phone and if it's locked so that it cannot connect to any WiFi that is is not already setup for, then you are correct, you will never get the notication. If it is powered-on within reach of a WiFi network that has already been setup/memorized, then the notice would be sent.

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