How to find a stolen phone

A number of options to locate, track or trace a mobile device after your phone has been stolen.

If you are reading this, you have probably had your mobile device stolen from you and are looking for options to find it back.
Losing your phone is frustrating, let alone having your device taken from you. Chances are, your phone might be lost for good.

Only a few lost and stolen phones can ever be found. Yours may or may not be one of them.

But for smartphones and tablets running Android, iOS or Windows Phone, it is likely the device has software needed to locate it.

Here are a number of things you can try..

How do I find my Android phone

Using Google Find Your Phone - for Android phones
Google provides service to recover lost or stolen Android devices, as long as the device is properly configured to do so.
    For this to work your Android device must be
  • Set up with a Google account
  • Switched on; The battery may not have run empty
  • Connected to the internet
If you are lucky enough to have your device meet the conditions above, you can try Google Find My Phone by clicking the button below. Go To > Google Find Your Phone If not, you're recommended to read Read More > What do you do when you lose your cell phone For this to work your Android device must be configured with a Google account.
The device must still be switched on, the battery of your phone may not have run empty, and it must have an active internet connection.
  1. Open your device's Settings app .
  2. Tap Security & Location. (If you don't see "Security & Location," tap Google Security.)
  3. Tap Find My Device.
  4. Turn on Remotely locate this device and Allow remote lock and erase.

If your Android device is configured with a Google Account, you might be in luck. As long as the battery of the phone is still charged, the phone has not been switched off and it has an internet connection, Google may be able to pinpoint your device. You can ring the device, lock it, or even completely wipe all information on it. And, best of all, show you it's location on a map. If you're prompted to sign in, use the same Google account you used to sign in on your phone.

How do I find my Apple iPhone

Apple iCloud Find My Device - for Apple devices

If you're prompted to sign in, use the same Apple ID you used to sign in on your phone.

Go To > Apple iCloud Find My Device

How do I find my Windows phone

Microsoft Find My Phone - for Windows phones

If you're prompted to sign in, use the same Microsoft account you used to sign in on your phone.

Go To > Microsoft Find My Phone

How do you trace a cell phone

We've all seen it in movies.. But is it real?

However helpful those technologies you see in cinemas would be; Most of what you see in movies can not be done in real life.

In real life, for people like you and me, there simply is no way to find a mobile device by entering it's phone number or IMEI number.
Imagine! If that would be possible, it would be an enormous privacy issue to any person carrying a phone.

So, how does the police do this?

Mobile phones constantly search for and connect with the nearest antennas operated by the telephone company.
Most, if not all telephone companies keep record which antennas their subscribers connect to.
These records allow a device to be traced to the tower it is on. Based on the physical location of the antenna, a rough estimate of the phone's actual location can be given. Records kept about phones connecting to antennas, allows a device to be traced to the tower it is on, and based on the physical location of the antenna, a rough estimate can be given and then the cell phone location triangulated off of multiple surrounding towers. Due to the number of towers this is easier in urban areas. Obviously, this information is not available to the public, but, can be used by law enforcement to give a fairly accurate estimate of a phone's last physical location.

How do you track a cell phone

Tracking services; Location aware mobile applications and services

There are many tracking services and applications available for almost any type of mobile phone out there.

Most of these are applications to be downloaded and installed onto phones, to periodically submit the phone location onto the internet.
They will often not-so-much help find a mobile device after it has been lost or stolen, as they are mostly only intended to record and/or share routes traveled while in posession of the device.

These services would only allow you to observe the whereabouts of the mobile device as long as their mobile application is installed onto the device, an internet connection is available, the battery has not run empty, and the device has not been switched off.

For people looking to find their lost or stolen mobile handset, these tracking-applications are not worth looking into.

Phone numbers and IMEI numbers can not be used to locate a mobile device

.. but your telephone company might

Sad but true; What you see in movies can not be done in real life.
There simply is no way to find a mobile device by entering it's phone number or IMEI number. Imagine! If that were possible, that would be an enormous privacy issue to any person carrying a phone.

So, what truth lies behind all this? And, how does the police do this?

To place a call or use the internet on a cellular device, it uses radio signals to communicate with antennas operated by a telephone company. If you were driving along a road, your mobile phone would constantly look for antennas along your route and would constantly keep connecting to the closest available antennas. Most telephone companies keep record of the antennas their subscribers connect to. This allows the device to be traced to the tower it is on, and then the cell phone location triangulated off of multiple surrounding towers. Due to the number of towers this is easier in urban areas. Obviously, this information is not available to the public, but, can be used by law enforcement to give a fairly accurate estimate of a phone's last physical location.

Read more > How do you trace a cell phone

What do you do when you lose your cell phone

  • Contact your telephone company
    Report your device as lost or stolen as soon as possible! Have your operator block the device from their network. This way you will not have to pay the bill if another person uses your device.

  • Go to the police
    File a report on how and where you lost your device. If you think you know who has your phone, never act on your own, let the police deal with it. Depending on local law, they may or may not be able to help you further.

  • Change your passwords
    Another person might have access to your personal information if in posession of your mobile device. Therefore it would be wise to change your passwords as soon as possible.
    Always start with most important services, like your e-mail and bank accounts.
    Then, continue changing passwords for services of lesser importance.

To prevent any damage another person could do to you while in posession of your handheld device, it is a good idea to change all passwords

Tracking vs Tracing

The not-insignificant differences

To most people the terms tracking and tracing are considered to be the same. This is not true. Tracing, is to find. Tracking, is to follow.

A fair warning

Don't think you can find the impossible

There are websites out there claiming to be able to find lost devices, asking you for a payment to trace a device by it's telephone or IMEI number. Please beware,