How To

How to Track a Stolen Phone

How to track a stolen phone
Written by Robin Okwanma

How to track a stolen phone? Mobile phones are indispensable communication gadgets in the modern world, that it can be so upsetting to the owner should he or she misplace it, or it gets stolen. It is even more painful if you have invested in buying an expensive phone.

For this reason, you still encounter quite a lot of people who prefer to have at least one traditional feature phone (which is not so expensive) by the side to fall back on – in the event of losing a more powerful Android or iOS phone. In this article, we will examine all the possible ways you can track and find your stolen or lost phone whether it is connected to the internet or not, switched on or off.

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Method 1: Track your stolen or lost phone with the phone’s native tracker

For Android Users:

Enable ‘Find My Device‘ feature on Android: It is important to turn on this feature on your Android phone while you are still using it, before the unforeseen happens. With this app,you can locate, lock or even erase all functionality on your lost or stolen Android phone. To enable this feature, you go to the Settings app on your Android phone, select Find my Device and turn it on. Take note that for this feature to work:

  • You must be connected to, and signed in to your Google account
  • Mobile data or wi-fi must be turned on and working
  • Your device’s location feature must be turned on
  • You must be visible in Google Play

– Then you proceed to the website https://android.com/find using another phone or computer that is internet-enabled, and sign in with your major Google account. A notification will be sent to the phone being traced. Here also you can view the approximate location of the stolen or lost phone on the Map in real time (that is currently); otherwise it will show you the last known location of the phone. On the same website you are shown a number of options to choose from to assist you. You can choose:

1. Play a Sound:

So your phone rings continuously for 5 minutes at the loudest volume); or

2. Secure Device:

Your previously set phone PIN, password or pattern for locking the screen will be activated; or you set the PIN right there if it was never created. Optionally it can display a message on the phone screen – such as a phone number, so whoever sees it can call the number or respond to the message for a possible return of the device.

3. Erase device:

With this feature, you can erase all the data (and/or setup information) on your Android phone forever without recovery. Thereafter, the ‘Find My Device‘ functionality will no longer be useful. This may not affect any information on a memory card still in your phone at that time.

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For iPhone Users:

You must enable the ‘Find My‘ feature on your iPhone ahead of time by going to your iPhone’s Settings-> Find My to turn it on. You can also track your stolen phone by using the ‘Find My‘ service on another Apple device.

– Thereafter, create your iCloud account by going to your iPhone to choose Settings ->iCloud ->Account and follow the instructions to set it up. You will need this done ahead of time to track your phone later in the iCloud site.

– Proceed to the website https://icloud.com/find and sign in with your Apple account.

– Go to Devices or Items tab, select the name of the lost iPhone, and click ‘Mark as Lost‘ or ‘Lost Mode‘, and finally select ‘Activate‘. By so doing, you can effectively lock your phone from being used with a passcode, or display contact information on the phone screen.

– In the same Devices tab, you have the option to choose ‘Erase this Device‘ after selecting the name of the lost iPhone. And all the data on your stolen or lost iPhone would be wiped off permanently.

 

Method 2: Track your stolen phone using the IMEI number

Every phone has a unique IMEI number. Your phone’s IMEI number (International Mobile Equipment Identity) is a unique 15-digit number identifier for your phone which generally speaking cannot be changed. In some phones, each SIM card has a different IMEI number. You can easily find a phone’s IMEI number displayed on the box in which the mobile handset was packaged when you bought it (probably on a sticker or clearly printed out); it is shown as part of the product information on the package.

You should expect to see the phone’s model number, serial number, bar code along with the IMEI number on the box package at any time. You can also find a phone’s IMEI number in the Settings app of your phone by checking Settings -> About Phone tab. It is strongly advised that you write out your phone’s IMEI number somewhere secure, so you can use it to track or trace your phone just in case it gets lost or stolen. The IMEI number is particularly useful in the following situations:

Situations Where IMEI number is Useful for Tracking a Stolen Phone

  • If your phone is without a SIM card
  • Your phone has no internet connection (or the internet connection is switched off)
  • The phone’s GPS location tracker is not working or switched off
  • If the phone’s battery is dead

So how do you use your phone’s IMEI number to track the stolen phone? You can do so in one of three possible ways:

How To Use IMEI Number to Track a Stolen Phone

Go to the Google Play store of your phone (if it is Android) or the Apple app store (if you are using iOS on iphone), search for ‘IMEI tracker’ app and download from a selection of available phone tracker apps, preferrably ones with high ratings, such as ‘Where’s my Droid’ ,  ‘Find my phone’ (on Google Play Store); or ‘Locate any Device by Numbers’ (on Apple app store).

Note that both Android and iOS/Apple phones have their own native phone tracker apps which are designed to work with internet access, and your phone’s location or GPS tracker must be turned on (in the Settings). You can find this by checking Settings-> Find my Device (Android) or Settings -> Find My (iOS). We have dwelt on this subject in the sections above.

There are also special websites that can help you to locate your stolen or lost phone using an IMEI tracker. You can check up sites such as imei-tracker.com or istaunch.com to make use of such functionality.

Downsides Of Using IMEI Number To Track Stolen Phone

You can block the IMEI number of your stolen or lost phone for security reasons, so it renders the phone useless (because it will be blacklisted and therefore forbidden for anyone to use the phone henceforth). Even the police can have access to the IMEI number for carrying out investigations or just to locate the phone. It would be best to move fast to block the IMEI number as soon as it is clear you cannot find the device easily. However, the downside of using IMEI numbers is that firstly, it does not block the contents of your phone’s  memory card (if there was one); and secondly some thieves can use a device called a ‘flasher’ to change the IMEI number of just about any phone – in such cases, it will no longer be possible for the original owner to trace the phone.

 

Necessary Precaution: Report Stolen Phone To Your Phone Service Provider and/or The Police

An important step you should embark on is to visit the customer care staff of your phone service provider (be it MTN, Glo, 9mobile, Airtel or any other if you are in Nigeria), inform them that your phone is stolen (or lost), and give them your phone’s IMEI number and SIM card number. This measure should be taken as fast as possible, preferrably within 24 hours of losing your phone. In some cases, your phone service provider may be able to run a GPS location search for your phone. In any case, your service provider can help you to disable the SIM card of the stolen or lost phone (so the thief has little or no chance to access your bank account, use your call credit, or access any sensitive information linked to your phone number). In some countries, the Police can also help to track lost or stolen phones.

Conclusion

You can begin search for your lost or stolen phone by recalling the last place where you used your phone and retrace your steps to that place; it might even be in a car. Go back and do a thorough search of the place – you might be lucky the phone is still there, or the thief changed his or her mind and dropped the device somewhere close by.

Additionally you check within the environment and walk through the places you passed through before your phone got missing. You could use a friend’s phone or a phone belonging to a concerned passerby to call (or text) your phone continually while the search is still on. If all the above methods fail, then you can proceed with all the steps we mentioned above.

 

About the author

Robin Okwanma

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