iPhone and iPad

Found a Lost or Stolen iPhone? Here’s What to Do

Brent Dirks Updated 20-01-2020

Even with the best of intentions, it’s often difficult to know how to proceed when you find a lost or stolen iPhone. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to help return the device to its rightful owner.

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There’s no exception when it comes to other people’s property, so holding onto something that isn’t yours could be theft. Plus, all modern iPhone models are useless thanks to the Activation Lock feature.

So here’s what to do if you’ve found a lost iPhone.

1. Is the Lost iPhone Charged?

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

Modern smartphone batteries aren’t great, so most of the time a lost device has a day (at best) before it runs out of battery. If there’s no charge, try holding the power button (a single button on the right-hand side) to see what happens.

Provided the iPhone still works, you’ll first need to 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 an AmazonBasics Lightning cable for a few dollars.

AmazonBasics Lightning to USB A Cable AmazonBasics Lightning to USB A Cable Buy Now On Amazon $7.32

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 lock screen. Pressing the Home button or swiping up at the bottom of the screen—depending on which iPhone model you’ve found—will likely prompt you for a passcode, Touch ID, or Face ID.

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 have two options to get more information. 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’ve found this iPhone. You should also be able to find the owner’s name listed at the top of the Contacts list in the Phone app.

3. Look to Medical ID for More Information

Action: Access the Medical ID feature, even with a locked iPhone.

If you’re still looking for the owner of a lost iPhone, try the Medical ID feature. While its main purpose is to provide important medical information to first responders in case of an emergency, it can also give you more clues about the identity of the owner.

To access the Medical ID function, access the lock screen on any iPhone and then select Emergency on the bottom-left side of the screen. You’ll then see a number pad on the screen. On the bottom-left of that screen, select Medical ID.

If the owner has set up the feature, you’ll see their name and more information about them. Hopefully, that will help you track down the owner.

4. Is the Phone 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. A feature called Activation Lock prevents the iPhone from being used even after a software reset, and the same feature lets the rightful owner track down lost devices.

Find My

If the iPhone has been put into Lost Mode, the owner has logged in to iCloud.com 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 connects to the internet, its location will be sent to the owner via iCloud.
You should certainly have Find My iPhone enabled on your own device under Settings > [Name] > Find My. Make sure to take a closer look at our explanation of the Find My app What Is "Find My" App in iOS 13? Everything You Need to Know Learn how to use the Find My app in iOS 13 and make the most of its awesome features. Read More and everything you need to know about it.

5. Try Asking Siri

Action: Grill Siri for information to locate the owner.

Provided the phone is online, Siri can do a lot even if the device is locked. This will only work if the phone was turned on when you found it, however.

After a restart, Siri is disabled until you first unlock it. Pressing and holding the home button will trigger Siri, which then gives you a chance to ask a question to help find the owner.

siri who owns this iPhone

A few ideas you could try:

  • “Call my wife”—Or husband, mom, dad, 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, 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.

6. Take a Photo

Take Photo iPhone

Action: Take a photo of your contact information that will sync online.

Many iPhone users have iCloud Photos enabled. That feature saves every photo and video taken by devices using your Apple ID to iCloud. This allows you to access your images on any iOS device, or a Mac, with the same Apple ID. That’s a big plus when trying to return a lost iPhone to its owner.

You don’t need to have an unlocked iPhone to snap a photo or video. On the lock screen, select the camera icon or swipe from right to left to access the camera. You can then snap a photo. The best idea would be to take a picture of your contact information.

With any luck, the image will be sent to the iCloud Photos account of the owner and they’ll see it on another device they use.

Found an iPhone? Make Contact or Hand It In

Keep in mind that if you find a lost iPhone, Activation Lock will prevent you from using it if it’s protected by Find My iPhone. It’s essentially a paperweight for as long as you have it in your possession. So don’t expect to use an iPhone you’ve found.

If none of these methods work, you may want to pop the owner’s SIM card out and take 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.

After trying all these options, your best bet is to take it to the police station that’s nearest to where you found the iPhone. Explain that you’ve found the phone and you’ve tried making contact, but nothing’s working.

Meanwhile, if you’re an Android owner and want to ensure that you don’t lose your phone, check out these Android anti-theft apps to protect your device The 7 Best Android Anti-Theft Apps to Protect Your Device If your Android phone gets stolen, you'll need a way to get it back. Here are the best Android anti-theft apps. Read More .

Explore more about: iCloud, iPhone, iPhone Tips, Location Data, Smartphone Security.

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  1. Nottoill
    February 23, 2020 at 9:54 pm

    Report your lost or stolen device to local law enforcement. Law enforcement might request the serial number of your device. Find your device serial number .

  2. Hamish McGeach
    January 26, 2020 at 12:59 pm

    Keep the phone charged and the owner will ring. You tell them where you are. It's not that hard.

    • peihoulouy
      February 5, 2020 at 3:27 am

      Or you can turn to Eelphone iPhone Unlock to force unlock it.

  3. 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?

  4. 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 ...

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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).

  8. 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!

  9. 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).

  10. 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.