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)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen

hello, if the thief stole my iphone5s and i already set it on a lost Mode but it said that its pending and actions will take affect when its connected to the internet ,
my question is if the thief can use parts of my phone and sell it ?and what parts can he use? and if so can the thief like see my data that is stored in the memory ?

please reply

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Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen

Yes, he could break it apart and potentially sell any part.. although, other than the screen I'm not sure there is much of a market.
Although it is technically possible for someone to take apart your phone, get the memory and potentially access the data stored in it, it's just not feasible unless you have state-secrets and the CIA wants those secrets.. It's more likely he would sell that memory chip for $10 than bother to try and steal your address list or pictures you have.

naki (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
How can i find my iphone 5s.....by sony expeiria tablet?
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

You should be able to go to the www.icloud.com website, sign in, and hit the Find My iPhone button using the web-browser of your Xperia.

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
how do you find your iphone if you don't have the find my iphone app and you never set up icloud?
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

If you never setup iCloud and Find My iPhone on your phone, then you will not be able to use iCloud or Find My iPhone to locate your phone.

Bo (not verified)
Re: Tips for finding past locations
I just found out that I may not graduate college because the prof said I missed class more than I did. Can I use my iPhone 5 to track my past history and how far back? I am appealing next week. Please help.
Skeeter (not verified)
Re: Tips for finding past locations
No, Find My iPhone does not track past locations.
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
My mother in laws phone was stolen, we tracked it and went to the location... The thief claimed to have thrown it in a lake that we found him at... Not sure if we believe him though... Can an iPhone be tracked after its been submerged in water for two hours?
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen

Hi There,

Thanks for being so amazing and using this site to help people track down devises / find answers.

I left my iphone5 (completely updated) in a cab on 4/26 and realized I had lost it five minutes later, when we started calling the phone (which was on ring) and the first 3-4 it would ring and ring until it hit voicemail. After the 4 or 5th time when we would call it would go straight to voicemail. So someone obviously turned it off not wanting to help return the phone to its owner.

I immediately went to icloud and set up the lost my phone to display a lost message and to track it, it obviously couldn't do it yet because the phone was turned off, but I knew that if it was turned on it would track it.

Two days later 4/28 I called my carrier to report it stolen and had them disable service.

Today, I got an email through icloud lost my phone and it showed me that my phone was put into lost mode at 12:39 and it shows me the address it was at at 12:40.

Is this really possible for someone to have plugged it in or tap into some kind of internet which allowed my phone to go into lost mode even though I had disabled the service?

Also, I have not filed a police report, but if I do would they be able to recover it based on the address (it is an apartment complex)?

I made a claim with my insurance and am getting a new phone sent to me now.

What a pain! I wish there were more decent good people in this world!

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
Anonymous Visitor wrote:

Is this really possible for someone to have plugged it in or tap into some kind of internet which allowed my phone to go into lost mode even though I had disabled the service?

YES - disabling your service does just that. It disables the service. It does not disable the phone itself or the WiFi.

Anonymous Visitor wrote:

Also, I have not filed a police report, but if I do would they be able to recover it based on the address (it is an apartment complex)?

I (nor anyone else) can't speak for your police department. You will have to ask them that question.

razib (not verified)
How to I find my stolen iPhone?
i have lost my iphone 4s 10 day ago.thief took my iphone.so how can i find my stolen iphone 4s
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: How to I find my stolen iPhone?

go to www.icloud.com .. log-in with your iCloud username and password, click the "find my iPhone" button.
Of course, this will only work if you created an iCloud account and used it to configure the Find My iPhone service on your phone before you lost it.

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen

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

How do I enable the indicator on my iphone?

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

Check: Settings | Privacy | Location Services | System Services | Status Bar Icon

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
I lose my iPhone 4s hacker will delete my icloud account can i track my phone?
Anonymous (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
if your icloud account information is removed from your phone you cant track it anymore but if your phone has ios 7 they cant remove the information without your icloud password.
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
l lost my iphone l had an icloud account so how can l track it
Anonymous (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
Go to www.icloud.com on any computer, sign in, and click the Find My iPhone button.
dipesh (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
can i find my iphone even if find my iphone is disable through IMEI no if complained to police
Appleseed (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen

Hi Hubby, it's awesome that you're still helping people after first posting this FAQ so long ago. I hope you don't mind sharing some advice with me. Thank you in advance for your time.

I lost my iPhone 5c last night (unsurprisingly given I'm here...). I've contacted my carrier and they've deactivated the sim and are sending me a replacement with the same number. It wasn't a contract phone, so it's just the sim that's been deactivated.

I've reported it to the club I lost it in, reported it to the police and gave them the serial number and imei just in case, and activated find my iPhone to play a sound/display a message.

Mobile data as turned off, and I don't think it will connect to an unknown wifi location, so it's showing as offline. To my understanding, until it connects to the internet, the find my iPhone features won't activate. If so, that means my phone almost certainly will never connect to wifi and is only protected by my pin, which can be broken given time. (Security settings on the phone are active to require my iTunes password for all downloads and to connect to iTunes/ back up to cloud and similar.)

My question is, if someone connects the phone to a computer to reset the phone does that computer have to connect to the internet (iTunes?) and if so, does that connect the phone to the internet - thus activating the find my iPhone settings and telling me it's location? Even if the phone is protected by pin and iTunes password?

The phone was updated to the latest version of iOS (7.something?)

Is there anything else I can/should do? Should I be contacting apple to see if they can brick the phone?

As I said above, thanks for any direction you can provide.

photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Track a lost iphone.

The phone itself has to connect to the internet, and plugging into iTunes does not connect it to the internet..
BUT..
If it has iOS 7 the phone cannot be reset or wiped clean without your iCloud password.. So you can take solace in knowing that if you can't have your iphone, nobody can have it.

I dont think there is much more you can do at this point.

Appleseed (not verified)
Re: Track a lost iphone.
Thanks again [\obsessing]
Matt (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
My iMac was stolen and I can see where it is. I typed s message when I locked it but did not give information to return….can I change the message displayed on the locked computer
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

isnt there an option to undo/turn-off right there on the screen? If so, turn off mode it's in and re-do it?

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
On an iphone 5 IOS7, If Control Center is set to "Access on Lock Screen", can a thief set the Airplane mode button and disable all communications even if I set Lost Mode in Find My Iphone
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
YES.
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
Hi, I've had my provider block my sim and I have findmyiphone app set up etc. now that I've had the sim blocked, will I still be able to track it? Thanks
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Track iphone without the SIM
if the phone connects to WiFi you can still track it, it does not need the SIM.
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen
If the phone's location services is turned off but the phone gets connected to wifi, will I still be able to get the current location or the last know location of the phone?

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