I completely understand your situation – You have lost your phone and you want to try anything and everything possible to get it back, because your lost phone is not only valuable in monetary terms, it also contains your personal data like contacts, photos, videos etc.
In this post, you will find some practical things you can do to get back your lost phone, or at least keep it safe from misuse. And you will learn to how to find a lost phone using IMEI number.
But before we begin – If you think that you phone is not stolen, but lost, you should do the following:-
- Check the places you recently visited (College, Library, Friend’s home, Club etc.)
- Check under the seats of your car
- Check with lost and found section if lost your phone while travelling in a public transport
If you are lucky enough, you will get your phone back without going through the recovery process. It is possible to find a lost phone using IMEI number, but you can’t do it on your own.
If you don’t find your smartphone even then, follow the steps below.
1. Report to the Police
1.1. Obtain the IMEI Number
IMEI number is a unique identification of your phone. Every manufacturer allots one to their devices and it is mandatory for them to do so. Also it can help you track your phone! There are several ways to find your phone’s IMEI number and you will find how to do so below.
1.1.1. From the box
IMEI numbers are usually written on the product box. So if you have the box, check out the label, you will find 16 digit number. Note that down. If you don’t have the box you can also get that from the retail invoice.
1.1.2. From the retail invoice
The retail invoice that is given to you when you buy a phone mentions the IMEI number. The seller does that to validate your warranty. So if you take your phone to the service centre and ask for a repair, they will first match the IMEI number of your phone with the IMEI number on the retail invoice.
1.1.3. From your carrier
If you don’t have both of the things, you can find your phone’s IMEI number by contacting your network operator. See when you first insert a SIM card into your phone, your IMEI number gets registered with your network operator. They have it in their database, you can call them up, tell them your phone number and ask for your IMEI number, they may require you to validate your identity first.
1.2. The next step: Get police involved
Once you have the IMEI number with you, it’s time to inform the police. Depending on your laws, you may have to report the incident of theft or loss within a certain amount of time. So I’m assuming that you are still in the time frame to report your lost smartphone. It is crucial to report if you ever want to get it back; Before this, nobody can help you! Even your network operator will not trace your smartphone or give you the slightest details of its location unless they receive a written permission from the police.
1.2.1. Things to carry to the Police Station
- Proof of identification (Driving license, Voter ID etc.)
- Retail invoice of the mobile phone (for IMEI number and proof of ownership)
1.2.2. The procedure and some information about it
The next step is to go to your nearest police station and report a formal FIR (First Information Report).
If you have lost your phone then there won’t be any resistance from the police in filing the report. Now I am not saying that all police stations offer resistance in filing stolen phone complaints but there are some that do and there is a reason; police has its own constraints. The investigation adopted by police is very different in case of a stolen phone and a lost phone.
When a phone is stolen, a second person involved – the accused, and in that case an investigation file is made and it is a criminal offence. If you have lost your phone then is just a matter of negligence, so there is no investigation file required. If the police does not file your report, in case, you can use your contacts (if you have any); else you can adopt this method (for India only) or report your phone as lost!
If you succeed in getting the police to track your phone then it is very easy for the police to track the device. Whenever the phone will be switched on, they will be able to track the location with 500 metre accuracy. But a very limited number of devices are put on tracking! In metro cities like Delhi there are over 10 million people, and hundreds of phones are stolen everyday. The police is not well equipped to cater to such activities because of this only a few mobile phones are tracked and there are cases of much more severity to look after like murders, rapes, terror threats and the police is already under a lot of work and hence it is not possible for them to search and find every single phone that’s been lost or stolen.
1.2.3. Things to acquire from the Police Station
- A copy of the FIR report
You will need the report if you want to get your SIM card reissued. Your network operator will require you submit a copy of the FIR before revealing the location of device (if it has been tracked), or blocking it from use.
2. Apps to the rescue
There are tens of apps that you can install on your Android or iOS device which will let you locate your smart phone from your computer or some other person’s mobile phone. But if you had such a situation, I don’t think you would be reading this post. Don’t worry there are some apps available that can help you track your device even when it is stolen and one of them can be installed to your device remotely.
2.1. Android Device Manager (Android)
Android device manager is Google’s built-in mobile tracker application that’s available for all Android devices.
You will need access to the e-mail address that’s associated with your Android mobile phone to use this service. Go to Android device manager website and login with your Google account. You can get precise location from where the phone was last used, you can ring the device for full 5 minutes, or you can remotely lock and wipe the data from it.
There are a few constraints though: ADM won’t work if the phone’s offline (no internet) or it’s been switched off.
2.2. FindMyiPhone (iOS)
You can set up this security feature on your phone by logging in to iCloud and track location of your iPhone via FindMyiPhone app.
With this app, you can:-
- Lock your screen
- Display a message
- Get notified about the locations your iPhone’s been
- Track current location
Warning: In case you find the location of your stolen phone, don’t go around looking for it yourself. The person who’s stolen it could be dangerous and there’s no point in putting yourself in an unsafe environment. You should take the help of cops in this case.
3. Blocking the Device and Wiping the Data on it
While your phone is being searched, as a safety measure, I think that you should block your phone from use or delete the data stored on it. You should do it for your own security; the phone not only has your personal data but it represents you and the other person may use your identity for his criminal activities. If something like that happens, then you will be under the investigative radar and that’s just the beginning of the trouble. So, blocking your phone should be done immediately.
3.1. Block via Carrier
You can call your network operator and tell him that you’ve lost your phone and are afraid that the person who finds it or has stolen it might misuse it. So, you want the phone to be blocked. The network operator can then retrieve IMEI number of your device from his records and blacklist it. The phone will then be bricked i.e. unusable, plus whenever a new SIM will be entered to the phone, the number, location etc. will be made available to your network. If you didn’t already, you might have submit the copy of FIR.
3.2. Remote wipe (Android)
You can easily remove all the data from your device, the pictures, contacts, everything by following the steps given in this tutorial.
3.3. Erase device (Apple)
The same thing can be done for iPhone by following the steps given in this tutorial.
4. Using Lost phone databases
The mobile phones that you lose often end up in retail shops where they are sold to buyers as used mobile phones. Several people check whether or not the phone they are buying has been lost or stolen via online lost phone databases. As a person who has lost his mobile phone, this is your last resort, your last hope. Actually there are online database of lost mobile phones kept by the police; for example you can look at this database kept by Delhi Police.
4.1. How they work
All you have to do is enter the details of your mobile phones including, and especially your IMEI number and pray that somebody finds your mobile phone and contacts you regarding it.
4.1.1. Risks of buying stolen phones
If a person buys used mobile phones, he should check whether or not that phone has been reported as lost or stolen. If the phone turns out to be a stolen device not only will he have to return the device, but also face legal actions. He will then have to prove that he bought it from a store and has not stolen it or something. If you doubt it, check out the Section 66 B of IT (Amendment) Act 2008.
4.2. How to use the databases (tutorial)
In this tutorial I will tell you how to report your lost phone on 3gadgets.com. It is one of the most popular online misplaced phone databases that can help you recover your phone.
Step 1: Go to the “Report Lost Gadget” page and fill in the form completely. Make sure you enter details correctly and announce a good reward, it’s just good karma.
Step 2: Wait till eternity!
I have tried my best to compile all the things that you can do to recover your lost phone. I hope that by following these steps you are able to get your smart phone back or at least stay away from trouble. If however your don’t get it back, don’t worry, it is just a phone, these kind of things come and go, so you don’t have to kill yourself over and over again that you lost your shit. Next time you buy a phone be sure to take good care of it, install a mobile tracking application, keep a backup of data, and put a tilak at the back of it!
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