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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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!!!
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Hubby
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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 ?
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Hubby
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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.
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Track my iPhone 5 with iOS 7
Seems like Apple's security measures are conflicting then. If I have a pin setup on the phone to prevent people from getting into it, then I can't make use of any of the iCloud security features, unless I'm just willing to go without a phone for an indefinite period of time. Stupid. The device should be able to connect to a cell tower to send a quick signal to Apple for this purpose and this alone, regardless if it's activated.
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Track my iPhone 5 with iOS 7

yah because Apple controls all of the cellphone carriers and can tell them how to run their business and can dictate to them that deactivated phones should still be able to connect to their towers..
moron.

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Track my iPhone 5 with iOS 7
If you think that Apple has absolutely no control over the carriers or vice versa, you're crazy. I'm not suggesting anyone dictate how anyone else should run their business. But it would seem a simple task to have part of the phone's boot-up process involve sending a quick signal to iCloud.com. Even if it was only once and at the time the device was told it was no longer an activated device it would be fine. Anyway, thanks for your constructive comments and awesome punctuation.
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Hubby
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I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: Track my iPhone 5 with iOS 7
Anonymous Visitor wrote:

The device should be able to connect to a cell tower to send a quick signal to Apple for this purpose and this alone, regardless if it's activated.

Unfortunatly the cellphone service providers strongly disagree with you, and don't like the idea allowing free connectivity to their towers.. for any purpose.
I'd also say that even though it's not perfect, and considering that Find My iPhone and iCloud is free, it's pretty darn good - and as far as I know, better than what any other cellphone manufacturer gives away... for free..

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Track my iPhone 5 with iOS 7

Another alternative would be to allow the user to connect to a wifi network from the lock screen. That way, someone who finds a device that powered down and then was deactivated might decide to charge it up and see if they can identify the owner. Another option is to have the device initiate the lost phone process as soon as it is hooked up to iTunes. It wouldn't need to connect to the Internet, as long as iTunes had Internet access. iTunes could simply send a silent signal to the phone saying "show lost phone message".

There tools are good, yes - certainly better than the competition. But there's still plenty of room for improvement.

NO. XIII (not verified)
tracking an iPod without Find My iPhone
i have the serial number but that's it. my iPod was stolen and i didn't have any "locate my apple device" services enabled on it. Is there anyway to get some useful info like a mac address, IMEI, MEID, CDN, or ICCID numbers that might help the local authorities find mt iPod?
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: tracking an iPod without Find My iPhone

Nope!
That is why Apple provides the free find My iPhone service, to help you or the police locate your lost or stolen devices because without it, when it's gone it's gone.

NO. XIII (not verified)
Re: tracking an iPod without Find My iPhone
No matter, i found out where to find my mac address. i'm giving it to the police. Is there any way i, myself could track the mac address? unlike most, I'm not going to sit around and do nothing while the police sit and twiddle their thumbs, i need to cover all possible bases. any ideas?
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: tracking an iPod without Find My iPhone

You nor the police will be able to track it with the MAC address..
If it was a phone, they might be able to give the MAC or serial number to the phone company who might be able to track it. But for an iPod, the MAC address is not going to help.

NO. XIII (not verified)
Re: tracking an iPod without Find My iPhone
Why? and why does every one just give up so easily if theres no icloud, 3/4 of finding stolen items is vigilance and persistence. there are plenty of networking tricks to help find it once you obtain a mac address if you can find anyone competent enough to help! You guys are such quitters and you rely too much on "having an app for that".
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: tracking an iPod without Find My iPhone

Uhm.. Ok.. But here are some of the challenges you will face:

  • An iPod is not like an iPhone which is constatnly connecting to cell-towers, making the location simple to pinpoint with the help of the cellphone company
  • Unless you installed something on the device before it was stolen, no location information is broadcast - it's kept private.
  • The MAC is not generally broadcast. If the device has iOS 8, the MAC is actually randomized (changed/faked) when connecting to/checking nearby Wifi locations to protect your privacy
  • Even if/when the MAC is made available to a nearby WiFi/Router, it is not send anywhere beyond that local router/WiFi
  • Even if/when the MAC is made available to a nearby WiFi/Router, it is not stored for any length of time (the ARP table only caches a small amout of entries on most devices)
  • Even if you are able to somehow query every router/WiFi box in the 100mile range of where it was stolen, and you then magically get a hit on the MAC address, you then have to find out where that device is.  The IP address will not give you any location information. You would need to get that from ISP (impossible without a court-order) OR get access to a global WiFi-location database such as Google's to tie it to a location.

I applaud your tenacity and persistence, just be aware there are limits to what hopes and dreams can accomplish.. Please keep us updated on your progress!

NO. XIII (not verified)
Re: tracking an iPod without Find My iPhone
Will do.
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
Hello. My iphone was stolen and the device shows the last time i logged in to locate it in icloud, but isnt able to track current location. Does this mean the location services was turned off? The thief coundnt have turned off "find my iphone", because the device is still showing in icloud. When i tested the app before my phone was stolen to see how find my iphone works the device didnt show up in icloud when i turned off "find my iphone". And when i turned it back on and turned off "location service" the device showed up in icloud but said that location services was off. So my question is wouldnt icloud tell me that locations services is off, if its still showing me last location?
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
if location services is off, iCloud will tell you it's off. If it canot track the location it's becasue the phone is either turned off, or it's not in range of WiFi/3G
Paul Antony Lee (not verified)
Location services switched off

I suspect my ex has my phone, I have 'findmyiphone' installed on the device as well as my iPad, problem is "location services " has been switched off. If I select 'lost mode' I can see the location of the lost/stolen device, but will she know I know? I don't want her to know and get rid of my property before I get a chance to recover it.

Can you advise?

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