Found a Lost or Stolen iPhone? Here’s What to Do
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Even with the best of intentions, it can be difficult to know how to proceed when you find a lost or stolen iPhone. Fortunately there are a few things you can do to help return the device to its rightful owner.

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There’s no “finders keepers” exception when it comes to other people’s property, so holding onto something that isn’t yours could be considered theft. It’s also pointless in the case of an iPhone, since most iPhones can’t be used once they’re lost thanks to a feature called Activation Lock.

So here’s what to do.

1. Is It Charged?

Action: Buy or borrow a charger and keep the device on and charging.

Modern smartphone batteries aren’t great, so most of us have a day at best if we lose our devices before they run out of battery. If it’s not charged, try holding the power button (a single button on the right-hand side) to see what happens.

Provided the iPhone still works, the first thing you’ll need to do is charge it. If you don’t own an iPhone yourself, you’ll either need to borrow or buy a Lightning cable. You can pick up cheap Lightning cables for a few dollars, or alternatively some public spaces (like shopping centers) have “charge stations” that are free to use.

2. Does It Have a Passcode Lock?

Action: Check for a passcode, but don’t try to brute-force it. Check the call log and registered Apple ID for contact details if you can access them.

Once the iPhone starts up, you’ll see a lockscreen. Clicking the Home button at the bottom of the screen will likely prompt you for a passcode (or fingerprint), but there’s a small chance the phone will unlock. This means the owner didn’t set a passcode, which is something all smartphone owners should do.

ios 10 passcode

If the phone does unlock, you can do two things. The first is to head Settings > iTunes & App Store to see what the owner’s registered Apple ID email address is. You can then send an email to the owner, informing them that you have their device.

The second is to head to Phone > Recent and check the call log. You should be able to deduce a suitable contact to call so you can inform them that you have found this iPhone. You should also be able to find the owner’s name listed at the top of the Contacts list under the Phone app.

3. Can It Connect to the Internet?

Action: Attempt to restore internet access by switching the phone on, inserting a SIM card, or via the use of an unsecured network.

If it’s a genuine lost iPhone, it’s likely to still have a SIM card in it. This SIM should allow access to the internet via the cellular network. If there’s no SIM card in it, you may be looking at a stolen phone. If you can get the iPhone online, you have a much better chance of finding the owner.

If there’s no SIM card, the device was probably stolen and you could try inserting one of your own. If the phone isn’t locked to another network Everything You Need To Know About Unlocking iPhones Everything You Need To Know About Unlocking iPhones If you bought your iPhone direct from Apple, you've got an unlocked phone that's good for use with any network. But what if you bought it through your mobile carrier? Read More , it should connect to the internet.

Wi-Fi is a little trickier. If you found the iPhone and it was off, iOS will not connect to unsecured networks until the passcode is entered. However, if the phone was still on, you may be able to get online via the use of an unsecured open wireless network.

Without a network connection, the owner will see that Find My iPhone is offline What It Means When Find My iPhone Is Offline and How to Find It Anyway What It Means When Find My iPhone Is Offline and How to Find It Anyway What does it mean when Find My iPhone says "offline"? How do you find an iPhone that's offline? Here are the answers you need. Read More , making it harder for them to locate it.

4. Is It in Lost Mode?

Action: Look for a message and make contact using any details provided.

Someone else’s iPhone is useless to anyone other than the owner, provided Find My iPhone is enabled. Activation Lock prevents the iPhone from being used even after a software reset, and the same feature can be used to track down lost devices. You should certainly have Find My iPhone enabled on your own device under Settings > iCloud.

iphone lost mode

If the iPhone has been put into Lost Mode, the owner has logged in to and marked the device as lost. You should see a message informing you of this, along with a message left by the owner. This should include a contact number or email address you can use to track down the owner.

If the phone manages to connect to the internet, its location will be sent to the owner via iCloud.

5. Try Siri

Action: If the phone is connected to the internet, grill Siri for information.

Provided the phone is online, Siri can do a lot even if the device is locked. This will only work if the phone was on when you found it. Siri is disabled until the initial unlock after powering-up the device. Pressing and holding the home button will trigger Siri, but you’ll need to be clever about what you ask.

siri who

A few ideas you could try:

  • “Call my wife” — Or husband, or mom, or dad, or boss, etc.
  • “Read my call log” — This may show you a recent call, so you can then ask Siri to call the contact (by name).
  • “Read my last message” — Will provide the contact’s name as well as the message contents.
  • “Who owns this iPhone?” — Should give you the name stored in the owner’s contact entry.
  • “What is my email address?” — Also try phone number, Twitter handle, and so on.

Unfortunately while testing, it seems that Siri has a limit on the amount of information divulged before requiring a passcode. Asking Siri to read the call log, then calling any contacts you find might be the best course of action.

Make Contact or Hand It In

To recap, here’s everything you can do to find the owner of a missing iPhone:

  • If Lost Mode is active, read the owner’s message and contact them via the details provided. You’re about to make someone’s day.
  • If the phone still has a SIM card in it, keep it on and powered up. The owner may still call it.
  • If the phone has no passcode lock, you should be able to hunt down an email or phone number that will help you return the device.
  • If the phone has internet access, Siri may give away enough information to help you out.

If none of these methods work, you may want to pop the owner’s SIM card out and take a note of their carrier and the number printed on the SIM card. You can then contact the carrier, quote the number, and they may be able to help contact the owner of the device.

If nothing is working, your best bet is to take it to the police station that’s nearest to where you found it. Explain that you’ve found the phone and you’ve tried making contact, but nothing’s working. There’s no “finders keepers” rule when it comes to lost property, and holding on to an item that you know is not yours may still be regarded as theft.

If you’re on the other end and want to ensure that you don’t lose your phone, check out these 7 Android anti-theft apps to protect your device.

Remember: Activation Lock will prevent you Buying a Used iPhone? Check If It's Been Activation Locked Buying a Used iPhone? Check If It's Been Activation Locked If an iPhone is activation locked, that means it's bound to somebody else's iCloud account. This can be a huge problem if you buy an iPhone that's used! Read More from using a phone that’s protected by Find My iPhone. It’s essentially a paperweight for as long as you have it in your possession.

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  1. Paul
    November 20, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    My neighbor received an unboxed iphone X in the mail with no accessories. She is senile and threw away the padded envelope, then later asked me what the device is as she had no idea! I turned it on; it goes to the Hello screens in various languages, so it has not been set up -- and it has no SIM card. Should I tell her to take it to the police?

  2. Eric
    June 12, 2018 at 9:14 pm

    Found a perfectly fine and working phone while out hiking this past weekend. Couldn't unlock the phone, so I brought it to the nearby police station. Officer was appreciative that I had turned it in. It's now "in the system," and I'll likely never know whether it gets back to its owner. Officer did take my contact info, so perhaps there will be more to the story ...

  3. Stephanie Suissa
    December 28, 2017 at 11:17 pm

    I just found an iphone s by my car today. It was not charged. I went home really fast to get an apple charger to power it on in case the owner call (I'm on Android). When I turned on the phone it said no SIM and it was lock as well. Now my only chance of reconnecting with the owner is to post on the neighborhood facebook page. It has 2 distinct features: the case and the home screen pic. Wish me luck!

  4. John
    December 20, 2017 at 9:52 am

    I couldn't do any of that as the phone was locked, and they must have blocked the Sim as it had no service, so Siri wouldn't work either. Did manage to find the owner by using the emergency call option on the lock screen which gave me the parents contact details.

  5. Sarah
    December 11, 2017 at 8:28 pm

    I asked Siri to call Mom and that worked. Thanks! Also I cleared the NSFW text message from the lock screen before his mom picked it up (you're welcome, kid).

  6. Felix
    November 30, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    I found an iPhone locked with password.
    After reading this forum, I asked Siri to call "mom". I thought, everybody has a mom. The messages on the front screen gave impression that the phone belongs to a teenager and the chances to have a mom's phone number were quite high. So the phone called the owner's mother, she answered and I was able to give my contact information.
    Happy ending, thank G-d!

  7. John
    June 26, 2017 at 6:15 pm

    I found an iPhone 6 last week, still powered on. I simply held on to the phone until someone called (it only took about 10 minutes of them losing it to call from a friend's device).

  8. Pugwash
    June 21, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    If you own an android, but your name and home phone number or email address visible in the lock screen. It will make things so much easier.