What to do if your iPhone is lost or stolen

By , Aug 11, 2014

Find My iPhone situation

Better safe than sorry, they say. This is particularly true when it comes to expensive items that contain a considerable amount of private information, such as your iPhone or your iPad. If you can’t necessarily prevent losing your iPhone or even worse, having it stolen from you, there are however some steps you can make to ensure that in the eventuality such thing would happen, you will be completely ready to handle the situation.

While we hope you’ll never have to deal with this, we want to make sure you know your options and have been proactive in securing your iOS device, whether it is an iPhone, an iPad, or an iPod touch. In this post, we will share with you some of the actions you can take to prepare your iPhone or iPad, and to protect it in case it is lost or stolen.

Enable Find My iPhone

Find My iPhone 5s

This is the most basic, yet the most important step in protecting your iOS device. Once enabled Find My iPhone will let you locate, track, lock and even completely wipe your iPhone in the event it’s been lost or stolen.

Starting with iOS 7, if you use iCloud, then you automatically use Find My iPhone. Opting you in this feature by default is Apple’s way to make sure you have at least a basic level of protection without requiring you to do anything specific.

Even if you use iCloud, I strongly recommend that you check right now if Find My iPhone is enabled on your device(s). My wife, for example, uses iCloud to backup her iPhone, but when I recently checked her device, I realized that Find My iPhone was disabled for some reason. I obviously turned it back on immediately.

Must read: How to set up Find My iPhone for your iPhone or iPad

Put your device in Lost Mode

iPhone in Lost Mode

If your iPhone was lost or stolen, the first thing you should do is to put your device in Lost Mode.

Lost Mode will allow you to passcode protect the device (if it wasn’t before), and add a personal message and phone number to the Lock screen. This way, if someone finds your phone, they can immediately call to let you know they found it.

Thieves being what they are, they won’t call you to tell you they stole your device, but by putting it in Lost Mode, you at least make sure that not only they can’t get into the phone, but the phone itself makes it clear that it was lost or stolen.

The best part of Find My iPhone is that it automatically enables Activation Lock, a feature that prevents anyone from restoring your device and activating it to make use of it. If your device is in Lost Mode, no one will be able to restore the device or use it as their own, making it completely useless for everyone but you.

Must read: How to put your iPhone or iPad in Lost Mode

Track the device

Locate find my iPhone map

Assuming you have enabled Find My iPhone and took the time to put it in Lost Mode, the next thing you want to do is to locate your device.

If you believe you lost your iPhone around the house, you can simply play a sound on the device, directly from the Find My iPhone app. This might help you locate your device if it’s close b, even if it is on mute.

Find my iPhone has a feature that lets you locate a device on the map, and even get turn by turn driving directions to it. This can help you figure out you lost your iPhone at the park for example.

This feature can potentially take you to the doorstep of a thief as well. We’ve seen quite our share of horror stories related to Find My iPhone, so don’t be a hero! If you believe your iPhone was stolen and you track it down to a certain location, we highly suggest you do not confront the thief but call the police instead.

Obviously, for all this to work, your device has to be on and online, whether it is via Wi-Fi or cellular.

Must read: How to track an iPhone or iPad with Find My iPhone

Erase the device

erase this iPhone situation

If all attempts to recover the device have failed, your very last resort should be to erase all the data contained on it to make sure it doesn’t fall in the wrong hands. Of course, if you followed the step above to put your device in Lost Mode, your data is supposedly safe, but it’s still physically on the device. The only way to clean the device is to erase it remotely.

We can’t stress enough that this should be your last course of action because once erased, you won’t be able to lock or track the device with Find My iPhone. When you remotely erase the device, you pretty much understand you’re never going to see it again.

Worth noting is that even if you erase the device remotely, the person who stole or found it will not be able to do anything with it. If they try to activate the phone, they will get stuck as they’ll need your Apple ID and password to proceed.

Must read: How to remotely erase an iPhone or iPad

Report your device to the police

While this might not prove to be really effective, it doesn’t hurt to report your lost or stolen device to your local authorities. You might have to spend a while at the police station to get it done, but if they ever find your device, they will be able to trace it and give it back to you.

In order to do so, they will most likely need the Serial Number of the device. You can find your device’s Serial Number on the original box or receipt. If you don’t have these, you can always find it from https://supportprofile.apple.com/, assuming you registered your device with your own Apple ID.

Report your device to your carrier

Your iPhone might have been somewhat secured thanks to Lost Mode, but your SIM card can still be used in a different device to make phone calls, send text messages and use data. This is why we strongly recommend calling your carrier as soon as possible and reporting your device as lost and make sure they deactivate your account. The sooner you do this, the quicker you make sure no one is going to make expensive calls on your dime. The carrier might also be able to add your device to a database of lost and stolen devices.

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  • Brian 

    What to do if your iPhone is stolen: Go buy another one :/

    • 4pp1e

      heheheheh perfect answer

    • https://twitter.com/aidanharris1 Aidan Harris

      Sure if it’s insured. If it isn’t you probably want to go after the perpetrator though or perhaps call the police?

      • Warren L Shafor

        true!

    • White Michael Jackson

      same thing i do when my kids are stolen.

  • Jeff

    To add to all this, make sure you Disable “Access on Lock Screen” for the Control Center. All the thief has to do is flick the Control Center up on your Lock Screen and go in Airplane mode…

    • https://twitter.com/aidanharris1 Aidan Harris

      Or they could just eject the sim card or power the device off. If the thief isn’t a complete and utter idiot they can ensure that they can’t be tracked should they desire it…

  • Felipe Queiroz Drumond

    I forgot my iPhone 5s in the a coconut store besides a lake in Rio de Janeiro. I went back there to try find it and the seller told me her didn’t see it. When I arrive at home, I used another idevice to find it and it was… in the same coconut store!
    Back there, the seller kept her history. So, in front of her, I sent the command to make my iPhone plays that sound and I heard it. The iphone was into a bag, inside the store. Thanks to her, that was not able or “smart” enough to turn of the device, I retrieve it.
    In that day, I installed BioLockDown tweak from cydia. Now, only my fingers will turn off, disable wi-fi or put it in flight mode. Unfortunately, there is no password to remove simcard :-

  • Someshwar

    Apple maps are not really up to the mark in india, when I lost my iPhone, “find my iPhone” wasn’t helpful and I had to give up on my iPhone.

    I had to shift to Lumia. At least, I won’t be sad when I lose a lumia, yay! Some advantage of owning a Lumia :)

    • pegger1

      So you’re saying the advantage of a Lumia is not wanting it haha

  • nonchalont

    Good info.

  • M Last

    I think when idevices lost or stolen,we only can do unusable .

  • Kiran Mali

    What about when factory-unlocked iphone lost or stolen?

    • pegger1

      Unlocking only allows other sim cards. It doesn’t give access to the phone and still doesn’t allow you to restore without the apple id.

  • siddique

    very interesting
    my friend mobile got stolen and the thief won to reactivate the iPhone, because the activation iCloud’s secondary email was( hotmail ) for reset password and that hotmail id was already configured on the iPhone mails account

    and

    Apple maps are not really work in saudi arabia, when he lost his iPhone, “find my iPhone” wasn’t helpful because the direction doesn’t work …

  • boscotherock

    I always said “what will I need this for, I’ll never lose my phone or have it get stolen” because it never leaves my hand. Little did I know Find my iPhone would find the clowns that robbed our house and get them time in juvy. Some 16 year olds broke into our home and and stole a number of things (laptops, xbox’s, etc.) and my mother’s iPad. Thankfully it was running iOS7 and secured with a passcode, so they wouldn’t have been able to wipe and reuse it even if they wanted to. My quick thinking immediately signed into icloud and tracked the ipad right to the kids house. The police quickly recovered it and arrested the kid. He rolled on the other kid involved and saved us time and worrying wondering who these people were that robbed us. None of our other stuff was recovered (we figure they ditched it somewhere), but karma got them. They’re currently in legal battles defending themselves over this issue and their priors. Thank you Apple for giving me the ability to track my devices.

  • Veronika

    My phone fell out of my pocket when crossing a street, got ran over by a car, and then picked up by some bikers. When we realized my phone was missing, we used find my iPhone on my boyfriends phone, tracked my moving phone into the next city and to the exact house it had been taken to! We walked up and knocked, showed the girls who had taken my phone that we knew it was there (nicely) and the look on their faces was priceless! You could tell they were absolutely shocked that the phone had been tracked down, and we couldn’t have gotten to their house more than five minutes after they arrived. They gave me my phone back with some shoddy “Oh we found it and were going to turn it into the store” story, and we went on our merry way :) As someone who has had a phone stolen before, this app is so wonderful!! I was so glad to get my phone back :)

  • mav3rick

    … once erased, you won’t be able to lock or track the device with Find My iPhone.

    From this post: “How to remotely erase an iPhone or iPad that was lost or stolen”:

    Important: Erasing your iPhone should be your last resort because once it’s been erased, you will not be able to use Find My iPhone to locate it.

    After restore…

    Anyone trying to activate the device will be unable to. Additionally, as long as the device is on and connected to the internet, you will be able to track its location with Find My iPhone.

    Which one is right, can you track location after restore?

  • Ali Majid

    my iphone is locked with the icloud activation any help ???
    there is gadgetwide but they don’t support iphone 5s :(
    please i can make some rewards :)

    • Mariconzuelo

      Return it to its owner

  • Samson Simpson

    Had one stolen, ipad mini, disappeared off of the Apple missing device database after a week. Someone did indeed find a way around the activation lock.