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How to find the owner of a lost or stolen iPhone

A Jet Black iPhone 7 rests on a wooden table or floor.

Updated December 2016: Reflects changes in iOS 10.

Returning a lost or stolen iPhone is simpler than you might imagine — if the owner hasn't enabled a passcode lock, anyway. Still, if the iPhone you have found is fully functional, we've got some tricks that can help you get in contact with the original owner faster than you may think!

How to get in contact with the owner of a lost or stolen iPhone

If you somehow end up in the possession of a lost or stolen iPhone, it's not always clear what you should do. Sadly, turning an iPhone in to a public establishment sometimes gets it stolen by a not-so-honest person behind the counter, or by a customer that saw you turn it in. If you'd rather take matters into your own hands in order to make sure the rightful owner ends up with it again, here are some things we'd recommend trying in order to contact them directly.

1. If there's no passcode lock, check their recent calls

No one likes invading anyone else's privacy but at the end of the day, there's got to be a little bit of an exception if you're serious about returning the iPhone. Just pop open the Phone app and tap Recents to look for a number the person communicates with regularly. Chances are, it'll be a labeled contact like Home, Work, or Husband.

That, however, only works if there's no passcode lock! With the introduction (and subsequent proliferation) of Touch ID, passcodes have grown far more common.

2. If there's a passcode, ask Siri for help

Most people don't realize that even if you have a passcode lock on your iPhone, you can bypass it to do things like place calls or send messages — unless, of course, they've disabled this functionality in Settings. However, it never hurts to grill Siri a bit. Here are some things you can try asking Siri by holding down the Home button from the Lock screen:

  • "Call home."
  • "Call mom."
  • "Call dad."

If the owner had relationships set up, you can also try things like "call my wife" or "call my partner."

3. Keep the device powered on and answer incoming calls

The one thing you absolutely want to make sure you do is keep the iPhone charged and powered on. More often than not, once the owner realizes their iPhone is missing, they'll try calling it from someone else's phone. As odd as it is to answer a phone that isn't yours, it's in both of your best interest. If someone is calling them, odds are they have more relevant information that is of use to you. And if you're really lucky, it'll be the owner on the other side of the line.

4. Find the IMEI or MEID and contact their carrier

Every iPhone has a unique number called an IMEI (or MEID for some CDMA phones) imprinted somewhere on it. The owner's carrier can use this information to track the owner down and hopefully contact them. It's best to just visit the carrier's store where they can then take possession of the iPhone and handle it from there. If you can't, you can always call the carrier over the phone and start from there. While they can't release information about the owner, they most certainly can help you track them down. If the iPhone is powered on, you can tell what carrier they have by looking at the carrier name in upper left hand corner of the screen. The carrier name appears immediately to the right of the signal dots.

There are several ways to find IMEI or MEID info:

  • Check the back of the phone. Before iPhone 6s, Apple printed the IMEI at the back, bottom portion of the device.
  • Type *#06# into the Phone app. The phone's IMEI will display onscreen.
  • Eject the SIM tray on the side of the device and flip it over. Look for the IMEI to be printed on the back of the tray.

If you aren't sure how to remove the SIM tray from an iPhone, you can follow our guide:

For even more help finding and recognizing an IMEI or MEID number, or any other identifying number for that matter, Apple has a great support article complete with photos you can take a look at:

Keep in mind that even if you found an iPhone that won't power on, you can always try calling different carriers in your area to see if they have a record of the IMEI or MEID. Since there aren't a huge amount of carriers in any one area, this process should still be relatively easy even without knowing the carrier off-hand.

5. Look for a Find My iPhone message

Any iPhone user can use Find My iPhone to enable Lost Mode, which locks the lost iPhone, enables Low Power Mode, and disables Apple Pay. It also allows you to leave a message on the phone's lock screen.

Wake the iPhone from sleep and check to see if the owner of the phone left a message for the person who finds it.

A final note about lost or stolen iPhones

Keep in mind that many iPhone owners can either use Find My iPhone to track their device or they can call their carrier and report it lost or stolen. If the latter happens, that phone cannot be activated on many cellular networks, at least in the United States.

There is no finder's keepers rule when it comes to lost property such as cell phones. If you find it and don't turn it in, it can still be considered theft. If Find My iPhone is activated and the owner successfully tracks you, they may have gotten law enforcement involved. So keep this in mind if you happen to stumble across a misplaced iPhone. The decisions you make from the second you pick it up can affect you, too.

Your advice for finding the owner of a lost or stolen iPhone?

If you've ever come across a lost or stolen iPhone, how did you go about reuniting it with the owner? Did you perform any of the steps above? And if so, were any of them successful for you? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!

Mikah Sargent is Senior Editor at Mobile Nations. When he's not bothering his chihuahuas, Mikah spends entirely too much time and money on HomeKit products. You can follow him on Twitter at @mikahsargent if you're so inclined.

66 Comments
  • Too bad most people are to scummy to return a nice iPhone they found . Even if they think they can't get into it they think someone that can will pay a nice chunk of change for the phone in its present condition locked an all. I wish more people were like you because I have already had two occasions where the person who found my phone taunted me an laughed Before shutting the phone off rendering the find my iPhone app or calling features useless Sent from the iMore App
  • They sound like real dicks probably best you didn't meet them anyway
  • Well I second hand purchased a iphone 6 plus and I didn't notice it needs the original owners icloud account and password but I can't get into the phone to find a way to get a hold of the people so I have no idea how to handle this
  • Have you wiped it?
  • Following on from your comment about using Siri… Just ask Siri, "Who does this iPhone belong to?" Siri will return with who she thinks the iPhone belongs to, as well as their contact information. Sent from the iMore App
  • Thanks for this tip!
  • nice i'm going to go and try this now!
    Edit: awesome it works! kind of scary how much info anyone who has physical access to my iPhone can find out about me with no knowledge on my part
  • Oddly enough, neither James or Ajay's advice works for me. I absolutely have my contact listed within Siri (My Info), but she does not know who my iPhone belongs to. I am the only owner of this iPhone 5S, I am a savvy power user, so I know that I have my iPhone setup right. My iPhone 5S *IS* on the latest version of iOS 7.1.2. does anyone else have this problem?
  • I just tried this and it didn't work.
  • Never realized that! I'll add it in!! Sent from the iMore App
  • Hey, I've been sitting on an iPhone 5c for just over a month waiting for the owner to find it but no such luck. They've disabled the phone and sim card rightfully so, but that also means that there's no chance of anyone ringing it. I've done a search online using icloud.com/activationlock and it seems like no one has activated iCloud so there's no help there identifying the owner. I've tried holding down the home button to activate Siri so I can ask it to dial home/mum but Siri doesn't turn up. Any suggestions? I'm not an iPhone owner so maybe I wasn't doing it right to get Siri to wake up.
  • If you can pull the sim card, you can contact the carrier. Give them the IMEI number or the number listed on the sim card. They can get in contact with the owner. Alternatively, once you know the carrier, just drop it off at one of their stores.
  • Thank You--it worked (Asking Siri, "Who does this phone belong to?): and the contact information popped up on the screen. However, if I asked Siri to call "mom" or "dad" it would ask me for the passcode (which I didn't have--because it's a lost iPhone).
  • I tried this and it just worked... Ask Siri "Who am I?" It brought up my contact information.
  • Works great, complete with Fb page, email, home address, phone number, wife's name, other established relationships etc. Sent from the iMore App
  • Wow. And it even works with other people's names, even when locked. I simply said my wife's name and everything came up. I would be okay with just the name with a link to Call, Message, Email, etc, then require the passcode (passcode is needed to message or email, if locked, but not to place a call). But Siri displays everything...? Sent from the iMore App
  • And now I'll be disabling Siri from the lock screen. Scary amount of info there.
  • you can also create a specific contact for yourself that has minimal information-- like an email address where someone could find you (that way you're not giving away your home address and work and all that.) Under Settings>Siri you'll see where you can choose that as your contact if someone finds your phone and wants to get it back to you.
  • Hell, I would keep the phone and inject a hack into it so that it's basically completely mine. Sent from the iMore App
  • I found a phone in the street at a fireworks show out of town. It didn't have a passcode but no one answered when I called all the recent numbers in the phone book. I dropped it off at the closest gas station and explained to the attendant that someone might call looking for it but I was headed back out of town. He seemed to understand the logic. Made sense to me. Sent from the iMore App
  • Thanks for the tips! Sent from the iMore App
  • I have on my start screen my I.C.E. nr. if someone finds my phone (or me in problems) he/she just have to wake the phone up and sees the number from my wife. No need to dig around in my phone. Sent from the iMore App
  • Thanks for the Tip!
  • When I've found unlocked phones (or plain-old "feature phones"), I just call 611 and tell the carrier that I've found this phone I'm calling from, and ask them how they would like for me to proceed. They may try to call the owner's alternate number(s) on file (home, work, etc.). If they can't reach the owner right there and then, it might mean leaving it at the establishment that you found it at and the carrier rep will ask for the establishment's address, (just in case the owner might not know where it was found at). Hint: ask for the manager on duty at the establishment, don't give it to just anyone. Another possibility if the phone is unlocked: go into the mail app, make sure you've backed out to the "Mailboxes" screen, then tap the icon to compose a new message. Since you're on the "Mailboxes" screen, it'll pick the default mail account if there are multiple accounts set up. Look at the "From:" field, address the e-mail to this account. Write an e-mail to the (presumed) owner and tell them where their phone will be. Hopefully, the owner has this account set up on another device (computer, iPad, web mail access, etc.) and get your message. Words of advice: If the phone is locked, the best thing to do is take it to the nearest police station and let them handle it. Don't use the phone's "Emergency call" feature, because a lost phone is not an "emergency". Also, don't take the phone home with you. It can give the wrong impression that perhaps you stole it, and the owner or police might be able to look at Find My iPhone's map and figure out where you live. Remember that you don't know the mental state of the owner; you could either be thanked, blamed, or assaulted for being in possession of that phone. Sent from the iMore App
  • I find it strange that Apple didn't include a feature to put a contact number on the lock screen, especially since Blackberry did that ten years ago. I made a custom lock screen for me and my spouse with each other's numbers. I used a drawing app to make a comic strip word balloon coming out of our kid's mouth, so it's fun to look at, too. I'll check my contact info in Siri from the lock screen now to see what I'd be giving up if I misplaced my precious.
  • Two things: I make custom wallpapers for my family's phones that say THIS PHONE IS GPS TRACKED. IF FOUND CALL XXX XXX XXXX for a reward. I also have a piece of paper with the same stuck to the back of the phone. Sent from the iMore App
  • When I was in Ireland two years ago I left my 4s in a gift shop bathroom in the boondocks. I didn't realize it til 3 hours later. The owner of the shop found it and had already called my son and daughter back in the states to say he had it and gave them his phone number. He actually drove about 3 hours to return my phone to me in Dublin. I dread to think what would have happened here in NYC to that phone. Thanks
  • I have a very unique situation with a stolen iPhone that I need advice for. I currently have a loaner iPhone from an Apple store while the phone I own is being repaired. Shortly after receiving the loaner phone the AT&T network blocked the loaner phone. According to AT&T the loaner actually belongs to someone else who reported the phone stolen. The Apple store and Apple customer service center says the phone is not stolen. I checked the IMEI number on an internet search and the results show the phone is in fact blacklisted and stolen. How could I contact the original owner of the phone? Apple and AT&T are no help and since I suspect the Apple store that I'm dealing with may have a dishonest employee due to this incident and some other odd experiences I've encountered with the same Apple store in the past couple of weeks. Given hassle I've dealt with since getting this apparent stolen phone from the Apple store I would really like to let the actual owner know where there phone ended up. Thoughts?
  • I know this was a while ago but in a case like this I would suggest taking the "loaner" phone either to the local police and telling them your suspicions about this Apple Store making sure to outline each thing that has created that suspicion or contacting Apple or AT&T corporate with the information. Perhaps all of the above even. That way you are turning the responsibility over to someone else and making sure enough people know about what might be going on in that store and hopefully put a rapid end to anything that's going on and may affect another unsuspecting customer. In the meantime I hope you got your phone back quickly and fixed properly.
  • Hi, we have just found an iPhone5 in Budapest, Hungary, which seems to have a Californian owner (alerts and time set on the phone), but it is keylocked, cannot connect to the internet, the SIM is also locked so no network neither.
    Let me know, if you have any idea how to find him/her to give the phone back.
    Cheers
  • My family was on vacation in Ireland. It was a guided tour and there were 16 of us on a bus. I asked the driver to stop as I had to use the restroom. We were in the middle of the country and stopped a little gift shop. I forgot my iphone in the bathroom. About 3 hours down the road I realized that I didn't have my phone. My friend got a call from daughter in the states that an Irish man had called and had my phone. He drove about 300 miles to Dublin to return my phone to me. I couldn't believe it and sadly i doubt that would have happened here in NYC.
  • We found an iPhone 5s 8 days ago in St Pancras station.
    The phone is passcode-locked and no-one has rung.
    Looks like the owner is from the States guessing from texts (travelling/airport).
    How can we get in touch to return?
    Can't trust to leave with anyone especially as the owner is probably in another country.
    Posted a msg on twitter and the phone is on, has been re-charged.
    Thanks.
  • I found an iPhone and used Siri to "call home". The owners dad answered and was more than happy to meet me and get his sons iPhone back. Felt really good to return it and the dad was most appreciative!
  • My daughter's boyfriend found an I phone 6 in Myrtle Beach, how can I find the owner, I don't trust turning it into the carrier. Thanks
  • So we just got back from Cancun, MX. We found an iPhone 6 in our stuff. We forgot to drop it off at the front desk on the way out. Trying to locate the owner. Apple is no help and the top corner of the screen says no service. It is locked and I am assuming disconnected/reported missing. We are back here in the states and I am wondering if Siri is multilingual. I am not an iPhone user so I don't know. I will try the "Who am I" trick, but will I need to try in in Spanish if it doesn't work?
  • bought an iphone 5s 32gig from some 2guys on the streets,unfortunately the battery was flat,they just told me they were stranded they needed urgent money for transport to a funeral.i gave them the money,i got the phone.to my suprise when i charged the phone nand turned it on,it was displaying a message saying ''This phone has been lost.Please Call me.(xxx)3791001.'',then i tried contacting the owner by calling him and texting him on whatsapp but they just texted me back saying''Sorry bruce,i know nothing about that phone and i am not missing any phone''.i still have the phone in my shelf with me right now.what do i do?
  • I found an iPhone 4 today and when checking to see if there was an email associated with it or some way to contact the owner, I spoke with AT&T. I just hate to return a phone to AT&T without knowing whether they will actually follow through on finding the owner and getting it returned. I just want this little girl to get her iPhone back so she can play My Boo, Hungry Shark, and Minion Rush. Unfortunately it's simply an iPhone 4 so there is no way of utilizing Siri to call someone. :( I guess this means I will have to trust in the good faith of AT&T now...
  • Hi I found an I-phone 4s in the road its been run over, it still rings but I cant answer it how can I find the owner the phone is naf but the sim will be ok and they may want it.....I found it in Grantham Lincs Barrowby gate Valley road area
  • I found an iphone 4 s as well no sim card tho and it is locked
  • On mack and valley high any luck finding the owner i plugged mine in it says happys iphone??
  • Found 20 Aug 2015 Grantham Lincs
  • Hey Cedric Sariku! What's your take? Leave a comment.i was sold an iphone 6 with someone which had been stolen,it was telng me that ths iphone is lost cal this number,i feared put it outside away frm me because i ddnt want any trouble,i threw it away a few days later
  • Thanks you very much indeed, I will give that a try. :)
  • Umm, turn it in to the police!