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)
Find My iPhone and Activation Lock
This question has been moved here: activation lock and Find My iPhone.
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?

Apple Eater (not verified)
Re: Location services switched off
When you put it in lost mode it cant be used normally, so she would know something was up
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Location services switched off
Lost mode sends a message to the screen saying this phone is lost if found please call ____.
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
My phone was stolen last week and I need to get a new one. Will I still be able to track my old phone if I have to deactivate it to get a new one?
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
You can still track it if it connects to a wifi.
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
track iphone after it's reset
if my iPhone is reset can I still track it ?
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: track iphone after it's reset

 taken from the page above:

 

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

 

The good news is that if your phone has iOS7 or iOS8 and you had Find My iPhone configured and enabled, they CANT reset it without your iCloud password.

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: track iphone after it's reset
if they restore my iphone using itunes in offlne mode than what will i do
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: track iphone after it's reset

The bad news is if they already have access to the info in your phone, they can request a forgot my password email, check your email, reset whatever passwords they want and then remove your device from iCloud. There should be a block of sorts to email or a better security measure when using forgot my password or wanting to take a device off iCloud. Forgot my password and your email go hand in hand and is easy to change when the thief already has access to the info in your phone. The thief put my phone into airplane mode to block the data signal. I put it in lost mode but never got the email notification of its location when it connected to wifi. I don't know if connecting to wifi while in airplane mode (thus still blocking the data signal) alerts you by email. It didn't for me. I located the area my phone was taken to by tracking the IP address the thief used when he checked my email to change the "forgotten" password.

Lessons learned...these security measures help but they ain't perfect.
Use all security measures, even if they're annoying.
These phones are really expensive ($600/800) and if stolen are considered grand theft larceny. If thieves are found, press charges.

Apple Eater (not verified)
Re: track iphone after it's reset
So what you're saying is, if you had put a passcode on your phone, you might have it today?
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: track iphone after it's reset

Actually what I was saying is that there should be an added security measure to "forgot my iPhone" past the email going to your email address for the thief to check and change your email. How one chooses to use their phone is determined by convenience to the customer. I now have a newer iPhone with the fingerprint access that I love in comparison to a passcode.

I was also making the general public aware of the lessons I learned because of it. It's okay that you chose to learn and point out the obvious, but being underlyingly crass and negative (by the tone of your comment) is not necessary.

photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: track iphone after it's reset

I think you both have valid points..
On the one hand, the increased security has been there all the time - setting a password or PIN on the phone.
On the other hand, even more security/password reset options would be good.

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: track iphone after it's reset
There are ways to though
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
Somebody stole my phone yesterday. they must've turned it off because, after a few calls it started going to voice-mail instead. I used the "Find my Iphone" app on my computer and it says, "devices offline". Is it still possible to find my phone? And if not is it possible to remotely change the iCloud account that is on my phone? Thank you
Apple Eater (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen

If the device is offline, you can't track it. There is an option on that screen to notify you if/when the phone turns back on. You can also put it into lost-mode and/or send a message to the phone. If it's turned back on, they will see that message and you will then be able to see the last location if the phone is turned back off. There is also an option to "lock" the phone and/or erase everything on it - all assuming it ever gets turned back on.

You dont want to change your password because that would then 'disconnect' the phone from iCloud and you wont be able to control it. Using the options above are usually better in a case like this.

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Track a lost iphone.
This question has been moved here: cancel Find My iPhone sound
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
Lost my iphone5. Borrowed my girls phone. Used the find my iphone app or something. i had to type in my apple ID and password. Same one like if you were buying from the app store. Found it in my car LOL. Im surprised no one has suggested that
Apple Eater (not verified)
Using the Find My iPhone App
That's exactly what you're supposed to do!
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
My niece took my iPhone 5S. It is now dead somewhere in this house. We have looked everywhere. Anyway to find it? Or any good ideas on places to look?
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen

once the battery is dead, it is no longer trackable..
The best way to find it is to go buy a new iPhone.. Guaranteed the old one will show up the next day!

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