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.

Comment viewing options

To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Kathy (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
Question: how or can I find my iPhone 5s that was stolen? Apple will not help, I have already changed my Apple ID and password. Pleas, any info will help, TYSM Kathy
Apple Eater (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
Yes, you can find your stolen phone by using Find My iPhone. Did you read any of the words on the page above?
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Erasing my stolen iPhone
My phone (purchased in UK on vodafone) was stolen in the Peruvian Amazon where there is only 2 G coverage (but no service for my carrier, only worked with alternative carrier). The phone was answered when first called but now goes to voice mail. I have put it in Lost mode and sent a message asking for a call. My concern is that until the phone escapes the amazon 2G coverage and hits a 3G coverage point where my service provider actually works, all my data and info is at risk. Shall i just erase the phone take it as gone or will it not earse until in 3G/Wifi so maybe best to wait? Have begun changing codes.
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Erasing my stolen iPhone
I have some connections in police department long back I have worked in the cyber crime department tell me your phone IMEI no I will help you
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: Erasing my stolen iPhone

The phone will erase (and go into lost mode/get the message) as soon as it is able to connect to the internet. As far as I know, 2G will do that just as well (only slower) as 3G.
Whether or not to erase, or wait, only you can decide.

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Erasing my stolen iPhone
Thanks but if my data roaming was off will just running into contact with a 2G network activate lost/ message mode?
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: Erasing my stolen iPhone

It has to have internet connectivity. If your setup connects to the internet with 2G, then yes. If not, then no.

Britta (not verified)
found my iphone6 that was stolen !!!
on halloween my iphone 6 was stolen, tonight a friend of mine heard about it for sale on the street and got it back for me.. there is no sim card in it though, but the MEID and serial ID's are all the same. i can now report my device from stolen to found but how do i go about getting a new sim card? Thanks in advance!!
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: found my iPhone 6 that was stolen !!!

Yay!!
Can't you just call your mobile provider for a new SIM?

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
if you restore iphone 6 n took out sim can it be tracked
Cath (not verified)
What do I do when I track my iPhone?
Hi there UPDATE I went to the house where my app told me my phone was last turned on they didnt know anything (old couple) but its just come back on line and im getting emails saying my iphone has been found. What next ?
Apple Eater (not verified)
Re: What do I do when I track my iPhone?
You can put the phone in "Lost Mode" which will record/save it's every move and let you send a message to the phone like "thank you for finding my phone, please contact me at yyyy" .. if that doesn't work after a day or two (if it's been turned on, you can tell by looking at the history) .. change the message to something like "stealing an iPhone is a felony.. please contact me at YYY before I file a police report". Then if they don't respond, file a police report and give them it's location.
Cath (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
Hi I lost my iphone 5s yesterday it was turned off because i was at a funeral. when i phoned it went to answerphone (obviously because i had turned it off ) but my husband phoned it again this morning and it was ringing so he immediately went on the find my iphone app and located it to a precise house. Needless to say the phone is now off again ! my question is what to do next ??
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Find your iPhone with Find My iPhone

You can put the phone in "Lost Mode" which will record/save it's every move and let you send a message to the phone like "thank you for finding my phone, please contact me at xxxx" .. if that doesnt work after a day or two (if it's been turned on, you can tell by looking at the history) .. change the message to something like "stealing an iphone is a felony.. please conact me at xxx before I file a police report" .. then.. if they dont respond, file a police report and give them it's location.

Cath (not verified)
Re: Find your iPhone with Find My iPhone
Thankyou so much for replying. I am contemplating going to the house to ask if they have the phone.
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
I lost my phone and I DIDNT have find my iPhone downloaded on my phone so I'm trying to find an app that you don't need to download on the phone before you lose it because I can't do anything if my phone is already gone
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
You dont "download" Find My iPhone to your phone, it's not an app. You configure it by entering your iCloud password and turning the option on. If you did not do this - and why in the world would you NOT do this? It takes like 2 seconds! ... then your phone is gone. There is no way to make it trackable by remotely downloading an app to it.. Such a thing does not exist nor is it possible. When you buy your new phone, be sure to take the 2 seconds to turn on Find My iPhone so this doesn't happen again!
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
If someone steals my iphone
if the thief has replaced my battery and completely broken into the phone (i.e. get it unlocked or jail break) can it still be tracked?
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: If someone steals my iphone

The phone is trackable via Find My iPhone unless it's turned off, unable to connect to the internet (WiFi or 3G), or is wiped/erased.

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
I lost my phone and the Find My Iphone was turned OFF in settings. Location services was also OFF. Can I still remotely wipe it through my carrier or some other way?
Anonymous visitor (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
Nope! That's why it's a bad idea to turn off something this important and critical.
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Find My iPhone Accuracy

I dropped my phone Saturday night in a crowded dance club. We looked and looked but couldn't find it. My husband used the app the following morning and located it in the club, but unfortunately they didn't open till 9pm. He then tracked it again at 10am to the same location. When we were about to drive down to get it we pinged it one more time and it was then located in a not so nice part of time. It gave us an exact address... Is that reliable? I have a feeling the cleaning guy took it. According to the owner he was the only one in the building at the time, but claims not know anything about it.
Any help would be appreciated.
Thanks!

photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: Find My iPhone Accuracy

It's pretty reliable, but not 100%.. You can put it into "lost mode" it make a message appear on the phone, asking to return it to the dance club before you call the police.. full-cost of a phone is pretty expensive, might count as grand-theft.

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Find My iPhone Accuracy
Thanks for the quick response! We have in lost mode and added a message. It's pending so I assume the phone is off. I asked the owner if he lived in the area where the phone was pinged and he hasn't answered me. Am I correct that the "lost mode" has to be fully engaged (not pending) to see a history of the locations?
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: Find My iPhone Accuracy

Correct - pending means the phone has not recieved the 'lost mode' signal yet.. Either becasue it's off or it can't connect to any WiFi/3G .. once recived, while it is on, the locations will be recorded.

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Iphone stolen

Hi.
I had an Iphone5 with the latest version of OS8 installed on it. It was stolen at a concert in Belgium last Saturday. I already had Find My Iphone installed, but I'm not sure if I activated the application or if I turned on location services for it. I tried to track the location by signing in to ICloud. But it says it's offline. Lost Mode is still pending... There is no passcode requirement to use my phone. When I tried to call, it said there is no signal for this number.
Is it possible that the thief erased/deleted Find My Iphone or signed into his/her account on Itunes/App Store/etc? I really don't know much about how ICloud or how things work...
Thank you in advance.

Apple Eater (not verified)
Re: Iphone stolen
If you properly setup Find My iPhone then Activation Lock will be on by default. With Activation Lock, the phone can't be erased without your iCloud password. If you did not setup Find My iPhone/Activation Lock, then the thief could very easily erase the phone and do whatever he wants with it. Not that installing the Find My iPhone "App" is not the same as setting up the Find My iPhone "service" for tracking.
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Iphone stolen
Thank you... I'll wait until lost mode is on and just hope for the best.
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
You can't track your iphone if it's turned off
Problem is that nothing works if the phone is turned off. Say goodbye to all the pictures and stuff on it. And open wallet and hand more money out for new phone. There's gotta be a better way to track your phone and have any hope of getting it back. Someone out there has got to be smarter than the average person and invent this.
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: You can't track your iphone if it's turned off
i agree....there must be a better way with tracking it even if its offline

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.